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Japan 5G network tests Arm chips, claims power draw down by 72%

Graviton2 processors trials with infrastructure vendors and telco as work on standalone 5G continues

NTT Docomo and NEC have conducted tests that demonstrate Arm-based Graviton2 processors consume 72 percent less power compared to X86 chips while running NEC's 5G core software as part of the NTT Docomo 5G network.

The two companies said they have completed a trial to test the energy efficiency and performance of AWS Graviton2 processors used across key elements of the 5G core network operated by the Japanese telco.

NEC provides the 5G core network systems and base stations (5G radio units (RUs) plus central units and distributed units for the 5G Standalone services that NTT Docomo launched commercially in Japan last year.

According to the two companies, their trial tested performance within a 5G core hybrid cloud environment and used AWS Graviton2 processors and NTT Docomo's Network Function Virtualization (NFV) infrastructure. In this proof of concept configuration, using Graviton2 chips enabled a reduction in power consumption by 72 percent on average, they claim.

Following completion of this first phase, the companies are now planning to conduct a second phase trial to test the 5G core network functions running on AWS Outposts equipped with Graviton2 processors deployed on NTT Docomo premises.

AWS Outposts is a kind of cloud-in-a-box solution that AWS customers can deploy into their own premises.

The Graviton2 was introduced by AWS to its cloud infrastructure in 2020. It is a 64-core processor based on Arm’s Neoverse N1 design, clocked at 2.5GHz.

NEC claimed that the Graviton2 processors deliver a major leap in performance and helps reduce the carbon footprint of IT workloads through energy efficiency.

The company also said that many telecommunication workloads need to reside on edge infrastructure with power and real estate constraints, and the Graviton2 offers efficiency with low cost, low power, and a low hardware footprint.

NTT Docomo’s EVP and CTO of R&D Innovation Division Naoki Tani said in a statement the company was delighted to achieve a significant reduction of power consumption for its 5G core network.

"We will continue the collaboration on the proof-of-concept with NEC and AWS for future delivery of environmentally friendly and disaster-resilient 5G network service to our customers,” he said.

AWS's VP and GM for its Telecom Industry Business Unit Adolfo Hernandez said in a statement: “AWS is committed to building a sustainable business for our customers and the planet, and is thrilled to see the power savings Graviton2 delivers in telecommunications.

"We look forward to continuing to work with NTT DOCOMO and NEC to further expand the use of cloud and AWS technologies to advance sustainability and resiliency goals."

The Japanese infrastructure giant was tapped to fill the Huawei-shaped hole in the UK telecoms supplier market in 2020, with trials of OpenRAN tech in partnership with NEC under the NeutrORAN project taking place in Wales. Earlier this month, it completed trials of its 5G massive MIMO tech on France's experimental 5G standalone network.

According to the Global Mobile Suppliers Association, at least 19 operators in 15 countries/territories are now understood to have launched public 5G SA networks. A further four have deployed 5G SA technology but not yet launched services, or have only soft-launched them. Most current deployments are NSA, or non-standalone, piggybacking on 4G infrastructure.

Several Chinese operators have launched standalone 5G, according to GSA, including China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom. In October 2021, SoftBank Corp. became the first Japanese operator to launch an SA network. ®

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