Rakuten Mobile is deploying 10,000 radio stations: CEO

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New Japanese market entrant Rakuten Mobile, a subsidiary of e-commerce giant Rakuten, has already activated a total of 4,738 radio stations in the country, which is more than the 3,432 initially planned, Rakuten Mobile chairman and CEO Mickey Mikitani said during a conference call with investors.

Mikitani said that including those radio stations with contracts signed, the company will soon achieve 10,000 radio stations.

“The challenges that we are faced with is about construction of base stations in big cities,” the executive said.

Mikitani also said that Rakuten Mobile expects to cover 70% of the Japanese population with its network by March 2021.

Mikitani did not provide details on the company’s current subscriber base. According to previous press reports, the new entrant was experiencing some challenges to reach its target of 3 million subscribers.

Rakuten Mobile initially launched a single unlimited plan with free service over the first 12 months for 3 million customers. The company said that after the first year, the package will have a monthly cost of JPY2,980 ($27.80).

Rakuten launched mobile services in April, relying on an end-to-end fully virtualized, cloud-native mobile network, which will allow the company to avoid deploying large amounts of hardware. The company highlighted that this virtualized network is cheaper to deploy and can be upgraded quickly.

“Rakuten Mobile would achieve success in Japan and then evolve into a platform globally. And from now on, 5G is something that we are seriously working on,” the executive added.

In a presentation, Rakuten said that the physical build of the 5G network is progressing as planned and that  NSA 5G Core has been already tested and validated. Rakuten also said that testing and validation of 5G New Radio software is in progress.

In related news, Rakuten Mobile announced that it plans to acquire U.S. engineering technology solutions firm Innoeye.

Rakuten Mobile has already deployed Innoeye’s converged OSS, an end-to-end platform process automation solution, to support the 4G/5G cloud platform for its network launch in Japan.

Plans are also underway to rollout this technology and expertise as part of the new Rakuten Communications Platform (RCP) offering to be made available to telecom companies and other enterprise customers around the world, the Japanese telco said.

Rakuten Communications Platform contains all the elements of the Rakuten Mobile network, including telco applications and software from multiple vendors, OSS and BSS systems handling customer billing and activation systems, in addition to edge computing and virtual network management functions.

“Since we first envisioned the launch of Rakuten Mobile two years ago, we have also planned to bring to market our own expertise and technology stack as a unique service that will enable operators around the world to deploy fully cloud-native telco networks of the future,” said Tareq Amin, representative director, EVP and CTO of Rakuten Mobile. “With the planned acquisition of Innoeye, we are one step closer to closing the circle in bringing to market a carrier grade telco cloud product that is as simple as click, purchase and deploy.”

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