Two Japanese operators — NTT Docomo and Rakuten Mobile — will share their information on radio access network (open RAN) technology with British organizations, according to multiple news outlets, including the Japan Times.

In March 2022, the Japanese and British governments agreed to cooperate on open RAN, among other joint telecommunications research.

Now, unnamed sources are saying that Japan’s National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) has selected the two Japanese operators to assist Britain in its open RAN efforts. NICT selected the companies to subcontract research and development on open RAN networks for the U.K. government.

In a prelude to this news, in November Rakuten Mobile announced plans to build an Open RAN Customer Experience Center in the U.K. at its Rakuten Symphony offices. The center, slated to open in March, will offer telecom operators and industry suppliers in Europe and the Middle East the opportunity to test open RAN technology.

The Open RAN Customer Experience Center is being at least partially funded by Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC).

In addition to validating the interoperability of devices in accordance with O-RAN Alliance specifications, the center will create an exhibition facility to demonstrate how the latest open RAN hardware and software – such as the Radio Unit, Central Unit and Distributed Unit –  will be used to improve operational efficiency and new services. The center will also hold workshops and events.

The U.K. and open RAN

The U.K., like several governments around the world, is interested in open RAN because it wants its telecom operators to eliminate equipment from the Chinese vendors Huawei and ZTE.

When the United States first banned the use of telecom equipment from the Chinese vendors, many other countries followed suit. But the U.K. government waffled a bit over concerns that purging the equipment would be too expensive. 

In October 2022 the government said that Huawei technology must be removed from the U.K.’s 5G public networks by the end of 2027.

In addition to the Japanese government’s work with the U.K., Japan has similar partnerships with the United States, Australia, India and Singapore.

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