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NEC’s world first open source 5G network could help stimulate Africa’s economy



GM of networking at NEC XON, Anthony Laing

The world’s first 5G mobile network radios based on open and fully virtualised architecture, built by NEC in partnership with various vRAN platforms for Rakuten Mobile, will cut the costs to build and operate 5G networks, give operators the opportunity to lower tariffs, and enable them to deliver a raft of new services to help the economy recover.


5G is prohibitively expensive because it uses proprietary hardware and software technology developed by few global vendors, creating substantial barriers to market entry.


“Open source, virtualised 5G overcomes the cost barrier because you don’t have the prohibitive costs of being locked in to a single vendor’s proprietary gear as they try to recover their investment,” says the General Manager of Networking at NEC XON, Anthony Laing. “It’s a game changer because it significantly alters how you create virtualised network functions using open rather than proprietary vRAN software. Decoupling the proprietary gear democratises 5G, which is massively beneficial for a whole spectrum of business and some consumer use cases.”


“It’s exactly the innovation we need in a post-lockdown world as we try to recover the economy. The lockdown has revealed the significance of wider, cheaper, more efficient online accessibility on a personal scale for students, businesspeople, retailers and many other kinds of public and private organisations,” he says. “Our business world changed overnight, and we have been forced to adapt.”


He says that open source 5G has many trickle-down effects and nearly 4 500 operational base stations are a ground-breaking use case proving its effectiveness.


“It won’t cost our mobile operators billions to build 5G networks using the technologies we’ve developed in our R&D labs,” he says, “so the business case becomes a lot more favourable for network operators who will be able to broaden their spectrum of services, scale them exponentially, and pass the pricing benefits to customers. With this new technology we have an opportunity to also be efficient, cost-effective, and provide services people need, at scale, to help us create business, economic, and job opportunities.”


NEC XON is the African value-added systems integration business in partnership with NEC Corporation that has specialty expertise in developing, designing, deploying and maintaining carrier-grade mobile and fixed line networks for African telecommunications service providers.


Rakuten Mobile is a Japanese start-up mobile network that aims to disrupt the market using NEC’s ground-breaking 5G equipment. NEC has already started delivery of the new 5G base station radios and Rakuten has installed more than 3 500 of them.

5G network




NEC XON is the combination of XON, a Systems Integrator providing custom ICT and security services and solutions in Southern Africa since 1996, and NEC Africa, the African business of the global technology giant NEC Corporation. NEC Corporation implemented its first communication solution in Africa in 1963 and established NEC Africa in 2011 to grow its business ICT and public safety.


NEC generates global revenues in excess of $30 billion by orchestrating a brighter world for public entities, enterprises, telecoms carriers, and providing system platforms for businesses.


The combined NEC Africa and XON (NEC XON) operations seek to more fully explore the opportunities for safe city, energy, cyber security, telecommunication solutions, retail, managed services, cyber defence services and cloud (both public and private), among others in sub-Sahara Africa.


NEC XON maintains its head offices in Gauteng, South Africa with a footprint that covers all nine provinces in South Africa and 16 countries in sub-Sahara Africa.

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