NEC and Analog Devices (ADI) have teamed to design a 5G massive MIMO (mMIMO) antenna radio unit for Rakuten Mobile’s end-to-end, fully virtualized cloud-native mobile network.

The 3.7 GHz radio unit uses ADI’s fourth-generation wideband RF transceiver for NEC’s mMIMO radio with digital beamforming and a 5G open virtual RAN (vRAN) interface. The mMIMO architecture with digital beamforming provides high-capacity transmission for dense urban areas, in a system that is easy to install.

ADI’s transceiver integrates quad-channel transmitters, receivers and digital predistortion in a single packaged IC. Software reconfigurable, it can cover all sub-6 GHz 5G frequency bands, simplifying radio designs for various bands.

Rakuten’s cloud-native virtual network reflects a shift in how mobile operators are providing high speed internet access at significantly lower costs and without the maintenance, upkeep, repair and labor associated with physical infrastructure.

NEC has begun shipping 5G mMIMO antenna radio units to Rakuten.

Nozomu Watanabe, senior vice president at NEC, said, “ADI’s RF transceiver is expertly designed to support wireless applications such as mMIMO and small cell systems, simplifying system design, reducing size and weight and minimizing power consumption. ADI’s RF equipment allows us to provide the connectivity required to build an architecture that supports 5G full-spectrum systems.”

Greg Henderson, senior vice president at Analog Devices, said, “By working with NEC to drive the first mMIMO installation for Rakuten Mobile, we’re laying the groundwork to propel 5G connectivity forward. The ecosystem is incredibly intricate and complex, but the primary goal is for all parties to work seamlessly together to inspire efficiencies across the board: cost, time and capital equipment. These are the pieces that will help us move to the next step of a truly virtualized network.”