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Telecommunication

NEC and Spain's Telefonica to test Open RAN wireless

Partners aim to build 800 5G stations across four markets by 2022

NEC hopes its partnership with Telefonica will open up new business opportunities in Open RAN. (Photo by Shinya Sawai)

TOKYO -- Japanese tech group NEC and Spanish telecommunications provider Telefonica will conduct pre-commercial trials for an open-source wireless platform called Open Radio Access Networks in Spain, Germany, the U.K. and Brazil, the companies said Tuesday.

NEC will provide equipment and serve as the system integrator for the trials. Open RAN allows equipment and software from different vendors to communicate, meaning network operators do not have to rely on a single supplier and could slash costs.

In its first multimarket foray into Open RAN, the Japanese company will use a U.K. research and development hub to integrate and validate the platform. NEC and Telefonica aim to set up at least 800 fifth-generation Open RAN bases by 2022.

Open RAN has emerged as a hot topic in telecommunications, with U.K.-based Vodafone Group and other wireless operators planning to adopt the technology. Telefonica looks to reach 50% radio network growth based on Open RAN by 2025.

But many other operators are hesitant to embrace the technology because of data security risks, a major concern in the industry. NEC hopes to bolster its track record in Open RAN in order to pave the way for future full-scale contracts.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga agreed at their Washington meeting in April to help finance and foster "secure and open 5G networks, including Open Radio Access Networks." With Chinese companies such as Huawei Technologies and ZTE holding a roughly 40% share of base stations, the statement was seen as reflecting their intent of creating an alternative to a China-led communications network.

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