Ericsson picked by KDDI, Japan for 5G core with enhanced zero-touch operation


Ericsson on Thursday said KDDI will use the vendor’s cloud-native dual-mode 5G core to launch standalone 5G services in its network in Japan.

One of Japan’s four major mobile operators, KDDI launched commercial 5G services at the end of March across parts of 15 prefectures, with plans to expand sites throughout Japan’s major cities.

That comes two days after Nokia disclosed a deal to supply Japan’s SoftBank with cloud-native 5G Core software, joining Ericsson in supporting the operator’s launch of standalone 5G services

SoftBank is using radio access network (RAN) gear from both Nokia and Ericsson, with the latter named as the primary vendor last year. Sweden’s Ericsson is the lead 5G RAN vendor for KDDI.

New services, enhanced automation

For standalone 5G services, KDDI’s using the Ericsson Cloud Packet Core. Ericsson said it will support KDDI’s focus on corporate customers, as well as new use cases for mobile broadband users and industry partners.

Automation capabilities from a container-based microservice architecture will bolster “zero-touch” operation, according to Ericsson, including continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD) processes.

KDDI and Ericsson have been collaborating on 5G core work for a few years and in February had what the vendor called a breakthrough for CI/CD pipeline delivery, testing software deployment for KDDI’s 5G core. The technology allows new software to be automatically deployed, cloud-natively and without human intervention. 

The pair successfully demonstrated delivery with the end-to-end 5G CI/CD pipeline, speeding up the process of accepting new software into KDDI’s network environment.

That can be important particularly when operators are looking to push out new applications and functions, with a move to standalone 5G focused on services-based architecture using features like network slicing. The CI/CD pipeline shortens time to market of new software from months to weeks, and enabled KDDI to deploy complex sliced and distributed network functions more easily, Ericsson said after the successful test.

“Agile delivery of services while maintaining high quality and availability is a must in 5G Core networks. Our CI/CD end-to-end software pipeline achieves this. We are happy to continue to work with KDDI to automate their network operation,” said Jan Karlsson, Ericsson’s head of Business Area Digital Services, in a statement at the time.

Supporting 5G business alliance

In Thursday’s announcement, Ericsson said its dual-mode 5G Core will also support KDDI’s 5G Business Co-creation Alliance, which is focused on enterprises.

Samsung in October teamed up with KDDI for the alliance, collaborating to explore 5G enterprise network solutions. Initial steps called for validating 5G use cases and developing new business models. Samsung said it would expand the scope of enterprise business the two could offer together.

Ericsson made a point that it also is a partner in KDDI’s 5G business alliance.

In addition to using Ericsson solutions for 5G core and RAN gear, KDDI tapped Samsung for 5G network technologies, including radio base stations. More recently, at the beginning of December, Fujitsu announced KDDI picked its O-RAN complaint 5G Radio Unit to help support commercial 5G services in Japan. Delivery is planned for the second half of 2021.

Fujitsu’s also supplying O-RAN-compliant radios for Dish Network’s 5G network build in the U.S., with volume deliveries expected in that same time frame. The third quarter of 2021 is when Dish plans to have its first major 5G market.

KDDI’s 5G plan, meanwhile, has called for about 10,000 5G base stations deployed by March 2021, and more than 20,000 by March 2022.