New Japanese mobile network entrant Rakuten Mobile, a subsidiary of Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten, announced it will delay the launch of commercial 5G services due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a release, Rakuten Mobile said that the 5G service originally planned for June 2020 is expected to be delayed by approximately three months due to the impact of the pandemic on part of the company’s global supply chain.
Rakuten Mobile also said it will continue to monitor the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and that it will make a further announcement regarding details of the timing for launch.
The carrier also confirmed that there are currently no plans to modify the company’s 5G base station deployment plans for fiscal year 2020, which were submitted to Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.
“We would like to extend our deepest sympathies to all those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and thank all of our employees and partner staff for their commitment to our 5G rollout during these difficult times,” said Tareq Amin, representative director, EVP and CTO of Rakuten Mobile. “We will work to minimize the impact of the pandemic and look forward to launching our 5G service in the near future.”
Earlier this week, Rakuten said in a presentation to announce its quarterly results that the physical build of the 5G network was 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. Amin explained in a tweet that software development for the 5G launch had been hindered by limited laboratory access in Japan and India due to COVID-19.
Firms including Airspan, NEC and Altiostar are currently working with Rakuten in the 5G deployment.
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. The company 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).
The telco 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 earlier this week 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. These radio stations are capable of handling both 4G and 5G traffic.
Japanese operators NTT DoCoMo, KDDI and SoftBank have launched commercial 5G services in Japan in March this year.