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Japan’s largest mobile operator, NTT DOCOMO, has signed an agreement with Nokia to supply 5G baseband products for aiming to deploy in a 5G mobile network planned to be in commercial service by 2020.

"We have been collaborating with partners such as Nokia on various 5G technology and use case trials since 2014,” said Hiroshi Nakamura, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, NTT DOCOMO. “With this agreement with Nokia, we are now proceeding to the next step to launch 5G mobile services by 2020, and accelerate co-creation of new services and businesses with vertical industry partners."

Nokia will support the telco’s commercial 5G operation in Japan by further enhancing existing baseband units and integrating its 5G New Radio (5G NR)-based AirScale hardware in the network, which will provide NTT DOCOMO's mobile customers with a unique experience fueled by 5G's extreme high speed, superior capacity and ultra-low latency.

With NTT DOCOMO looking to get its 5G commercial service by 2020, Nokia's solution will provide a natural evolution to existing 4G/LTE deployments and also successful integration into the existing operational environment.

"The agreement with NTT DOCOMO is a major milestone in bringing 5G to commercial reality, especially in a country with a long and proud history of technological achievements and early technology adoption,” said Marc Rouanne, president of Mobile Networks at Nokia. “Together we have worked hard in recent months to commence preparations for NTT DOCOMO's eventual launch of its operational 5G service by 2020, which we have now set in motion by this very exciting announcement today."

Nokia has enjoyed a long-term working relationship with Japan's largest operator that has produced supply agreements for 3G and 4G/LTE networking technology. The two companies have also worked closely together in trials of 5G technologies, and now agree on supply of Nokia's 5G BBUs to be able to do centralized management for 5G RRHs (remote radio heads) for aiming to deploy in 5G network.

This is aligned with NTT DOCOMO's 5G direction, which is fully utilizing existing C-RAN architecture for 5G. Based on the agreement, Nokia will support NTT DOCOMO in the evolution of its network from 4G/LTE to 5G, providing technology based on the new 3GPP-compliant 5G NR standard, the first stage of which was published shortly before the end of 2017.