Rakuten fleshes out its Communications Platform ahead of global expansion

Japanese greenfield operator Rakuten Mobile has signed agreements with NEC and Fujitsu to collaborate over global OpenRAN promotion.

Rakuten has been teasing the development of an OpenRAN platform that can be bought off-the-peg by other operators for some time. Compatriots NEC and Fujitsu have been in the mix for some time, but both have signed memoranda-of-understanding with Rakuten, which seem to signify their enduring commitment to the project.

NEC seems to be the main software partner for the Rakuten Communications Platform, While Fujitsu is providing the radio units themselves. It’s not yet clear whether any other partners will need to be drafted in to complete the package, but it seems likely that Rakuten will scour Japan for any extra help before it turns further afield.

“This MoU will empower both NEC and Rakuten Mobile to contribute in an even more comprehensive way to the opening and virtualization of cellular networks around the world,” said  NEC EVP Atsuo Kawamura. “NEC is already providing Rakuten Mobile with BSS/OSS, 5G RU and 5G core solutions for its revolutionary fully virtualized cloud native network. We hope to continue contributing to the expansion of the Rakuten Communications Platform as it rolls out around the globe.”

“We are confident that Fujitsu’s capabilities in advanced wireless technologies and open architecture integration will play an active role in the global expansion of the Rakuten Communications Platform,” said Shingo Mizuno, head of the network business at Fujitsu. “We look forward to maximizing the synergy between our two companies to further accelerate the global development of Fujitsu’s Open RAN solutions.”

“Rakuten Mobile has successfully designed, launched and now operates a fully virtualized mobile network,” said Tareq Amin CTO of Rakuten Mobile. “This unique network architecture built on Open RAN standards continues to attract significant interest from operators, enterprises and governments around the world. With NEC’s excellent level of technical expertise in radio and track record of providing our high quality 5G sub-6 RU, this collaboration will accelerate the global expansion of Rakuten Communications Platform and promote adoption of Open RAN in global markets.

“As we start introducing Rakuten Communications Platform to telco operators, governments and enterprises around the world, we are seeing strong demand for high-performance, cost-effective and high-quality radios for 4G LTE and 5G New Radio (NR) based on open and virtualized RAN. With Japanese quality and a highly competitive cost structure as major differentiators, our joint efforts with Fujitsu are on track to bring significant incremental value to our customers and partners around the world.”

Let’s see. Rakuten seems to be betting very heavily on this platform being a global success, but it’s not like all the other major operators are just sitting around waiting for Rakuten to come to the rescue. It will be interesting to see effectively Rakuten can keep its special OpenRAN recipe a secret before everyone else just works it out for themselves. Also, with the US making OpenRAN a matter of strategic urgency, perhaps stressing the nationalist angle isn’t such a great idea.

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