Rakuten plans world’s first open RAN 5G launch next month

Rakuten plans world’s first open RAN 5G launch next month, says CTO

10 August 2020 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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Japanese retailer Rakuten is set to launch its 5G network next month, the first in the world to be using open standards for its radio network.

A number of operators have tried open radio access networks (open RAN or O-RAN) for rural fill-ins, but Rakuten is building its whole network that way. But Rakuten is several months behind schedule: in March it was hoping for a June launch

The company plans to start services in September in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya, according to a weekend interview with CTO Tareq Amin (pictured) in Indian newspaper Business Standard.

Amin was CTO of ultra-successful Indian rival Reliance Jio, whose 4G service launch has caused an earthquake among other operators in India, provoking mergers into two rivals, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea.

Now Amin is talking to Indian vendors including Sterlite Technologies, Tech Mahindra and Wipro, some of which have worked with Jio.

And Amin is open to working with Jio, he said in the interview. “There is a significant cultural compatibility between our firm and Reliance,” he told the paper. “We believe in innovation and customer engagement. We don’t see Reliance as a competitor but as a possible collaborator in initiatives.”

Rakuten already has an R&D centre in Bangalore and it has bought a stake in Altiostar, a US company that specialises in virtual open RAN technology. Tech Mahindra also has a stake in Altiostar.

Rakuten is also buying InnoEye Technologies, a US/Indian R&D specialist that is building software for the Japanese network.