Rakuten Mobile launches 5G services in parts of Japan

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Japanese operator Rakuten Mobile, a unit of e-commerce giant Rakuten, has announced the availability of its commercial 5G service in certain areas across six prefectures of the country.

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

The company’s 5G launch was initially expected for June this year but was postponed due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

The operator announced its “Rakuten UN-LIMIT V” service plan which offers customers access to 5G services for the same JPY2,980 ($28.2) monthly fee as the previous “Rakuten UN-LIMIT 2.0” plan.

From today, existing subscribers of the Rakuten UN-LIMIT 2.0 service plan will be able to use 5G services for no additional cost, in 5G service areas with a 5G-compatible device, Rakuten said. New applicants for the 5G plan are also eligible for the campaign offering 3 million subscribers the first full year of service free of monthly fees launched in March 2020.

“As we move forward to expand 4G and 5G coverage, we aim to reduce the household cost of mobile services. This is also about encouraging consumer spending across other services and goods, contributing to the sustainable health of Japan’s national economy,” said Mickey Mikitani, chairman and CEO of Rakuten and CEO of Rakuten Mobile.

During the presentation of the 5G service, Mikitani also said that the cost of the firm’s 5G plan is 71% lower compared to competitors.

Along with the launch of the new Rakuten UN-LIMIT V plan, the operator also unveiled its new 5G smartphone dubbed “Rakuten BIG”. The device features a 6.8-inch OLED display and 64MP camera.

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

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

Meanwhile, the company’s CTO Tareq Amin said that the initial 5G download rates are at 870 Mbps but he said that he is confident of surpassing 1 Gbps in the short term.

In Rakuten Mobile’s 5G network, excluding the core network, all 5G network functions, such as the virtualized OpenRAN, cloud and OSS, are run on the Rakuten Communications Platform (RCP), a telco platform that is based on containers for more flexible and stable development.

Rakuten Mobile launched mobile services in Japan in April 2020 through an end-to-end fully virtualized cloud-native mobile network.

In June, Rakuten Mobile and NEC Corporation announced that the two companies have reached an agreement to jointly develop the containerized standalone (SA) 5G core network (5GC) to be used in Rakuten Mobile’s fully virtualized cloud native 5G network.

Under the terms of the deal, Rakuten Mobile and NEC said they will develop the containerized SA 5G mobile core to be made available on the Rakuten Communications Platform (RCP).

Rival operators NTT Docomo, SoftBank and KDDI already offer 5G in parts of the country.

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