O-RAN Ecosystem Testing through NTT DOCOMO and Spirent

By Alex Passett, Editor  |  March 22, 2023

In the U.S., most Americans think of Verizon Wireless (News - Alert), T-Mobile, AT&T, and others in that bucket (so to speak) when considering networks and carriers.

Over in Japan, however, the largest telecommunications company and mobile phone operator is NTT DOCOMO, a subsidiary of Japan’s NTT (News - Alert). DOCOMO is an abbreviation of the phrase “Do Communications Over the Mobile Network” and is also a compounding of the Japanese word “dokomo” which essentially translates to the word “everywhere” in English, making it very fitting for a company delivering widespread communications. (As a language nerd, I simply had to include this background. As a TMCnet Editor, I still felt it pertinent to NTT DOCOMO’s background. A little two-in-one this morning, I suppose.)

Recently, NTT DOCOMO officially announced that it had selected technologies from British multinational telecommunications testing company Spirent for its new 5G Open RAN (O-RAN) Ecosystem (OREC) tests. Spirent (News - Alert) is certainly a solid choice, given its know-how in automated testing and assurance solutions for networks, positioning, and the cybersecurity that businesses need.

By utilizing Spirent’s O-RAN capabilities, NTT DOCOMO can smartly test this O-RAN for multi-vendor and real-world performance in order to support the implementation of other O-RANs.

Conducting testing this way makes a ton of sense. As Spirent’s solutions provide what is considered to be one of the most comprehensive libraries of 5G testing features and functionalities, scaling users and performance is well within reach. Additionally, this OREC project leverages NTT DOCOMO’s expertise and provides its teams with open labs that enable mobile network operators (MNOs) to become far more familiar with the OREC while testing multi-vendor solutions. For both NTT DOCOMO and Spirent, this promotes a win-win for interoperability, plus the commercialization of virtualized radio access network (vRAN) solutions conforming to O-RAN Alliance standards.

“O-RAN is a disaggregated network,” explained Sadayuki Abeta, Corporate Evangelist at NTT DOCOMO, “so each O-RAN function must first be tested independently, then with the adjacent functions together, and then end-to-end. It’s complex. Emulation in particular is a critical element of any O-RAN testbed, and Spirent is a true market leader in this area. Including its technology as a key component of OREC testing will ensure operators can gain confidence in their O-RAN deployments.”

Doug Roberts, General Manager of Spirent’s Lifecycle Service Assurance, is of a similar mind here.

“Customers like NTT DOCOMO,” Roberts said, “have such an excellent opportunity to leverage O-RAN to build a true, multi-vendor network that drives increased innovation to deliver uniquely differentiated services to their customers.”

So, the long story short of this? NTT DOCOMO recognizes that, due to its complexities, MNOs must ensure that O-RAN technology functions and reliably performs as expected. In this vein, Spirent’s technologies provide that validation.

Edited by Greg Tavarez
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