Japanese carrier Rakuten Mobile and compatriot company NEC announced that they have formed a partnership to build what it claims to be the world’s first 5G open vRAN architecture in Japan.
NEC has been selected to be the network equipment provider for Rakuten Mobile’s new 5G network in the Asian nation.
Through the partnership, Rakuten and NEC will jointly develop a 3.7 GHz massive MIMO 5G antenna radio unit (RU), which will be manufactured by NEC at its facilities in Japan.
Rakuten Mobile is currently building a fully virtualized, end-to-end cloud-native mobile network for the provision of 5G technology in Japan. Rakuten Mobile Network, which aims to launch commercial 5G services in June 2020, has already received approval for its Special Base Station Deployment Plan by the Japanese government and aims to launch its first services as a mobile network operator in October 2019. The Japanese company aims to acquire at least 15 million subscribers in an initial phase of the mobile deployment.
Rakuten and NEC/Netcracker are already working together on an end-to-end BSS/OSS solution to support the mobile network launch and subsequent operations. The expansion of the partnership with NEC to include 5G network equipment further builds upon Rakuten’s vision of the disaggregation of hardware and software and true end-to-end virtualization of mobile networks, especially in radio access, according to the Japanese telco.
“We are very excited to partner with a network technology leader such as NEC in building the world’s first 5G open RAN architecture here in Japan,” said Tareq Amin, CTO of Rakuten Mobile. “NEC’s technology and expertise will allow us to not only cost-effectively create a highly secure, high quality 5G network, but by designing and producing the antennas in the local market, we look forward to contributing to the development of the Japanese telecommunications industry and economy.”
“Going forward, NEC aims to drive the global expansion of virtualized network architecture with Rakuten Mobile,” said said Atsuo Kawamura, executive vice president and president of the Network Services Business Unit at NEC.
Last month, Japan’s government approved plans by the country’s four mobile carriers to build 5G wireless networks with investment set to reach JPY 1.6 trillion ($14.4 billion) over the next five years.
Applications submitted by NTT DoCoMo, KDDI, SoftBank and Rakuten were approved by the communications ministry after determining that the companies’ applications met the conditions of the allocation of 5G spectrum.
NTT DoCoMo is planning the largest spend, with a goal to invest at least JPY 795 billion in the deployment of 5G networks during this period. KDDI announced investments of JPY 466 billion, while SoftBank and Rakuten are targeting investments of JPY 206 billion and JPY 194 billion respectively.
The conditions for the allocation of 5G spectrum included commitments to offer services in every prefecture of the nation within two years, and set up 5G base stations in at least half the country within five years.
NTT DoCoMo and KDDI are each targeting to cover over 90% of the country’s population with 5G by the end of the five-year period, while SoftBank is targeting 64% coverage and Rakuten is aiming for 56%.
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