Japan’s Rakuten Mobile joins O-RAN Alliance

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Rakuten Mobile CTO takes spot on O-RAN Alliance board

Japanese operator Rakuten Mobile, a subsidiary of e-commerce giant Rakuten, announced it has joined the O-RAN Alliance, a worldwide community promoting open, fully interoperable radio access networks (RAN).

Tareq Amin, representative director, EVP and CTO of Rakuten Mobile, was appointed as a member of the board of directors of the O-RAN Alliance.

Rakuten Mobile has built what it claims to be the world’s first end-to-end fully-virtualized, cloud-native mobile network. Rakuten Mobile’s network utilizes a multi-vendor approach incorporating virtualization technologies. The architecture also makes it possible to transition to an O-RAN standard-compliant RAN mainly through a software upgrade.

“At Rakuten Mobile, we believe that Open RAN is the future evolution of mobile networks,” said Tareq Amin. “As a member of the O-RAN Alliance, we will leverage the experience gained from the development of our open, virtualized network in Japan to contribute to the creation of a fully open standard for RAN for the world.”

As a member of the O-RAN Alliance, Rakuten Mobile will contribute to the technical development of Open RAN.

The alliance is a global community of over 200 operators, vendors, research and academic institutions operating in the RAN industry. Founded in February 2018 and established as a German entity in August 2018, the organization’s mission is to enable an open, interoperable supply chain ecosystem in full support of and complimentary to standards promoted by 3GPP and other industry standards organizations.

Last month, Rakuten Mobile signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Saudi Telecom Company (STC) with the aim of collaborating in several areas including OpenRAN

Both operators said they aim to accelerate the delivery of mobile network services through the use of Open RAN mobile access technology.

In September, Rakuten Mobile inked an agreement with Spanish carrier Telefonica to research and conduct lab tests and trials to support OpenRAN architectures, including the role of the AI in the RAN Networks. Under the partnership, both companies will also jointly develop proposals for optimal 5G RAN architecture and OpenRAN models.

Rakuten Mobile launched its commercial mobile operations in April this year, becoming the fourth mobile operator in Japan.

In September, Rakuten Mobile announced the availability of its commercial 5G service in certain areas across six prefectures of the country.

The service, initially offered via non-standalone (NSA) 5G architecture, is already available in parts of Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama, Hokkaido, Osaka and Hyogo.

Rakuten Mobile’s President Yoshihisa Yamada said that the operator is expecting the 5G to be available in all of Japan’s 47 prefectures by end-March 2021.

Yamada also confirmed that Rakuten Mobile expects to launch a standalone 5G network in the second quarter of 2021.

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