Deutsche Telekom touts progress on software-based mobile networks

FILE PHOTO: The logo of German telecoms giant Deutsche Telekom and GSM antennas are seen atop the company's headquarters in Bonn
FILE PHOTO: A crow rests on the GSM mobile phone antennas of Deutsche Telekom AG atop the German telecoms giant's headquarters in Bonn, Germany, February 19, 2019. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

June 28, 2021

BERLIN (Reuters) – Deutsche Telekom has successfully tested software-based mobile network technology using high-capacity antennas, it said on Monday, a potential alternative to existing network suppliers that could give mobile firms more flexibility and cut costs.

The trial of its Open Radio Access Network (O-RAN) in the German town of Neubrandenburg is the first of its kind in Europe, Deutsche Telekom’s technology chief Claudia Nemat told an online presentation.

“We are convinced that – as the technology matures – it will drive choice and innovation in a new ecosystem of partners,” Nemat told the event, which coincided with, but was separate from, the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

The telecoms industry is exploring a shift to open networks that would reduce its reliance on antennas and base stations made by vendors such as Huawei, Nokia and Ericsson.

Such open networks would replace proprietary kit with standardized hardware and software, offering greater flexibility in configuring operations and choosing vendors.

Until now, however, it has been a challenge to get open networks to handle so-called Massive MIMO – or multiple input, multiple output – antennas that power 5G networks by locking on to many smartphone users at the same time.

As part of its ‘O-RAN Town’ project in Neubrandenburg, Deutsche Telekom has already integrated the first sites to its network and plans to configure up to 25 of its 4G and 5G mobile units for O-RAN, said Nemat.

Deutsche Telekom is partnering with Mavenir, Fujitsu and NEC on its O-RAN project, while Nokia is also involved in a joint research initiative on the technology.

Nemat teased the prospect of a big tender this October to step up work on O-RAN, but cautioned it would be two to five years before the technology could be widely deployed in Deutsche Telekom’s European networks.

(Reporting by Douglas Busvine; Editing by Mark Potter)