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NTT Docomo Aims To Accelerate 5G Rollout In Japan: Report

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By Juan Pedro Tomás

Japanese carrier NTT Docomo aims to accelerate the pace of its 5G expansion in the country, as rival operators are also quickly rolling out 5G across Japan, local press reported.

According to the report, NTT Docomo now aims to offer coverage to 90 per cent of the Japanese population by March 2024, which is up from its previous goal of 80 per cent.

Rival telecommunications provider KDDI said it will likely achieve 90 per cent coverage by the early part of the fiscal year that starts in April, while SoftBank says it will reach the mark this coming spring.

NTT Docomo initially launched 5G services in Japan in 2020.

In December last year, Japanese tech company NEC said it has provided packet core and base stations for the 5G Standalone (SA) services that NTT Docomo launched commercially that same month.

NEC noted that its 5G core for Standalone architecture helps create customized networks on demand according to the different requirements for 5G services that include eMBB (enhanced Mobile Broadband), mMTC (massive Machine Type Communication), and URLLC (Ultra-Reliable and Low Latency Communications).

Moreover, NEC said its 5G base stations which had been previously operating as non- standalone (NSA) on Docomo’s commercial network, have been migrated to 5G SA via a software upgrade.

NTT Docomo and NEC had also recently completed interoperability testing for 5G Standalone (SA) using a 5G base station baseband unit (5G CU/DU) conforming to O-RAN open interface specifications and radio units (RUs) of different vendors.

In June 2021, NEC announced the joint development of RAN Intelligent Controllers (RIC) with NTT Docomo in support of intelligent Radio Access Networks. The two companies said they are aiming to reduce RAN operational costs, improve performance and reduce power consumption through the use of RIC.

Last year, NTT Docomo had selected Samsung as a 5G network solution provider. Samsung will specifically support the carrier’s next phase of its Open RAN development.

Also in 2021, NTT Docomo and JTower announced that they have formed a capital and business alliance with the aim of strengthening collaboration in the field of infrastructure sharing.

As part of the alliance, Docomo plans to acquire part of JTower shares held by Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (NTT) and become a shareholder with 2.5 per cent voting rights in the future.

NTT Docomo started using the JTower’s infra-sharing solution for its 4G network in 2016 and has expanded the use of the solution nationwide. Furthermore, from October 2020, the company started using 5G IBS at the time JTower installed 5G IBS in the Tokyo Metropolitan Government as the first 5G infra-sharing solution in Japan, and also began using smart poles in the Nishi-Shinjuku area of Tokyo.

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