Japanese telco Rakuten Mobile, a unit of e-commerce giant Rakuten, has delayed the launch of its nationwide mobile services. The service was initially expected for next month, and instead the company will launch a free rial service for a limited number of customers from October 1.
According to recent press reports, the company has been experiencing some delays in the deployment of mobile base stations. Chairman and CEO Hiroshi Mikitani told reporters in a press conference in Tokyo that “full service would begin as soon as the company is confident of ‘stable operation’ of the new network.
“It could be within a month or maybe three months — today it’s not [yet]decided. It’s not going to be six months off,” the executive reportedly said. Nikkei Asian Review had reported that the delay would be six months, with full launch next spring.
In a statement, Rakuten said to ensure the stability and quality of its service and improve the network based on customer feedback, it will initially open applications to 5,000 subscribers for free through a program running until the end of March 2020.
Rakuten Mobile also said the mobile service will be expanded in waves to connect tens of thousands of users to the network.
While Mikitani said that full launch would not be six months off, the company said that its ‘Free Supporter Program’ will conclude by the time of launch of regular subscriptions and, in the case of that launch starting before March 31, 2020, Free Supporter Program subscribers will be offered the opportunity to continue to provide customer feedback in exchange for compensation equivalent to mobile service communication charges until the end of March.
Starting next month, Rakuten Mobile will offer seven smartphone models and two Wi-Fi router models.
Rakuten Mobile also said its own network service area will cover the 23 wards of Tokyo, Nagoya City, Osaka City and parts of Hyogo prefecture. Rakuten Mobile will offer nationwide LTE services to customers from the time of launch through services based on the roaming agreement with KDDI Corporation and Okinawa Cellular Telephone Company, to be provided outside of Tokyo’s 23 wards, Nagoya City and Osaka City and excluding high-traffic areas.
Rakuten Mobile’s plan stipulates the deployment of 3,432 base stations mainly in Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka by the end March 2020.
Rakuten Mobile also highlighted that it is working to continue to expand the service area of its own network.
“While KDDI Corporation and Okinawa Cellular Telephone Company will provide roaming services until the end of March 2026, Rakuten will continue to build out its own mobile network and switch the service to its own network by area as the network is completed,” Rakuten Mobile said.
Rakuten Mobile was cleared to become Japan’s fourth mobile operator in April 2018.
In related news, radio access network infrastructure vendor Airspan announced its partnership with Rakuten Mobile to bring 5G mmWave and rural connectivity solutions.
Under the agreement, Airspan said it will provide Rakuten Mobile with its open RAN platforms to lay the foundation for transformational 5G architectures.
Airspan’s mmWave virtualized Air5G OpenRange28 platform utilizes Qualcomm’s FSM100xx 5G chipset and supports open RAN architectures. The platform will connect to Rakuten Mobile’s virtualized BBU to deliver an advanced open interface virtualized RAN solution.
In 2017, Airspan had inked a partnership with Indian carrier Reliance Jio with the aim of deploying a network of small cells and small cell backhaul products to provide coverage and capacity for delivering high speed broadband data, voice, and digital services across India. Under this agreement, Jio had already deployed thousands of Airspan small cells.