Rakuten Mobile exporting open network approach to other operators
Japanese company Rakuten Mobile announced the full-scale commercial launch of its mobile carrier service in the country.
Rakuten Mobile, a unit of e-commerce giant Rakuten, kicked off its commercial 4G service on April 8, becoming the fourth mobile operator in Japan.
The telco claimed to be the first operator with a live service based on fully virtualized infrastructure.
The carrier also unveiled the enhanced “Rakuten Un-Limit 2.0” plan, its unlimited mobile service plan available for the monthly fee of JPY 2,980 ($27.4). The upgraded Rakuten UN-LIMIT 2.0 plan offers customers 5GB of data per month when roaming in domestic partner areas and increases the maximum data transmission speed in these partner areas after using up the allocated 5GB to 1Mbps. Compared to the 2GB of domestic partner area data roaming and maximum 128kbps offered by the previous version of the Rakuten U-Limit plan, this increase is designed to better serve customers and meet the growing demand for mobile services, the company said.
Advance applications for the service plan began on March 3. A campaign is also underway offering 3 million customers who sign up for the program the first year of service free of charge.
Rakuten Mobile said its own network service area will cover the 23 wards of Tokyo, Nagoya City, Osaka City and parts of Hyogo prefecture. The company 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 recently said it already deployed 3,490 base stations. The company was planning to have 4,400 mobile stations by the end of March and exceed its target of 8,600 mobile stations across Japan by March 2021.
The operator aims to launch 5G services later this year, according to previous press reports.
Rakuten has previously said that its launch will rely on what it claims to be the world’s first 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.
In late September 2019, Rakuten Mobile had delayed a nationwide launch planned for October, instead introducing a trial service for a limited number of subscribers. The telco postponed the expected commercial launch as it had been experiencing some delays in the deployment of mobile base stations, according to previous reports. Mikitani had previously said that “full service would begin as soon as the company is confident of ‘stable operation’ of the new network.