NEC teams up with Red Hat to deliver cloud native 5G solutions

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The Japanese telecoms vendor NEC has brought its partnership with IBM-owned open source software solutions provider Red Hat up to date to deliver multicloud capable 5G solutions.

The two companies announced that they are taking their long-established partnership to the 5G standalone era. Essentially this means NEC will be able to deliver its 5G solutions built on Red Hat OpenShift, the software vendor’s Kubernetes platform for enterprises.

NEC and Red Hat go back a long way. More recently they have been working together to help operator roll out Network Function Virtualisation (NFV), with NEC’s solutions using Red Hat’s OpenStack platform. However, NFVs have largely proved to be expensive to develop and slow for onboarding. With the industry moving into 5G, especially when 5G standalone implementation is expanding, it looks to be a good opportunity to focus on helping operators realise virtualisation on cloud native infrastructure.

Such a move is in line with NEC’s strategy to compete by more open solutions. Takashi Niino, NEC’s President, spelt out the strategy earlier when he shared the company’s ambition to expand its share in the global 5G infrastructure market. Niino conceded that “we have no chance of winning against a vertical integration model in which one company backs all systems.” Instead NEC has opted to provide telcos with more friendly options by maximising interoperability.

Virtualisation on cloud native 5G infrastructure, moving from NFV to CNF (cloud-native network function), increases the chances for companies like NEC to be selected by new customers, provided that they have the right solutions. NEC’s 5G core, with its multicloud compatibility, is certified by Red Hat, making it a strong candidate for telcos which may want to be less locked in the vertically integrated solutions from Ericsson, Nokia, or Huawei.

This strategy has come to fruition lately, with highlights in its successes outside of Japan. In the UK, the company has been selected both by the government and the operator O2 as OpenRAN partners. It is also aggressively pushing into the Indian market.

When it comes to the latest announcement, the nature of Red Hat’s OpenShift makes us believe the companies must also have an eye firmly on the private 5G markets. The Kubernetes platform is designed to enables straightforward microservice deployment for enterprises and other institutions that prefer to own their own 5G networks, including edge computing tasks.

Executives of both companies have expressed their delight with the partnership being taken one step further. “We are pleased to collaborate with Red Hat to help CSPs and DSPs stay competitive in this increasingly demanding global 5G market, especially on the cloud-native front,” said Michio Kiuchi, senior VP of NEC. “Through our long-term and continued collaboration with Red Hat, we are working to build an open industry standard which has enormous potential for expanding awareness and adoption of 5G cloud-native network functions. NEC 5G solutions will provide a more efficient and reliable network experience for our customers by integration with Red Hat’s cloud-native solution,” he added.

Darrell Jordan Smith, Red Hat’s senior VP for Industries and Global Accounts, echoed the sentiment. “As 5G becomes central to the competitiveness and viability of service providers, it’s critical that these organizations deploy on a foundation that supports a consistent, reliable and cloud-native strategy,” he said. “We’re pleased to work with NEC to provide this new infrastructure built on Red Hat OpenShift. NEC understands the power of open principles and through this expanded collaboration, service providers will be able to maximize the benefits of 5G use cases in the telecommunications sector and beyond.”