California-based Viavi Solutions, a global provider of network test, monitoring and assurance solutions, has been selected by Japanese e-commerce services provider Rakuten to support its drive to establish Japan’s new fourth cellular network player – Rakuten Mobile Network. Under the deal, Viavi will supply its VIAVI TM500 system to support the rapid deployment of a nationwide, end-to-end cloud-native mobile network for Rakuten, which it claims is the ‘de facto standard for lab validation of mobile network performance as experienced by end users’.
The vendor’s press release notes that Rakuten will use the TM500 for user equipment (UE) simulation as part of a state-of-the-art operator lab, designed to simulate and stress the network from end to end. The TM500 is described as a scalable test system for validating network performance across multiple cells and different radio access technologies, and is in use with ‘almost every base station manufacturer across the world’. Recently released industry-first features include: uplink MIMO on two layers; downlink 8×8 MIMO; 4×4 MIMO support; two downlink carrier aggregation at 120kHz and 240kHz; millimetre wave support; and support for multiple UEs on 5G.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, Rakuten Mobile Network is targeting a commercial launch in October 2019 and seeks to achieve 96% population coverage by the end of fiscal 2025. The start-up is optimistic of signing up ten million subscribers by the end of fiscal 2028, scaled down from its initial 15 million projection. However, the parent group has also reduced its projected rollout budget, from JPY600 billion (USD5.4 billion) to JPY526.3 billion. More recently, in November 2018 Rakuten concluded a deal with incumbent KDDI (au), allowing it to use the latter’s 4G LTE network to provide mobile services from its 2019 launch until March 2026. The deal gives the fledgling cellular unit time to fully deploy its own network infrastructure across Japan. In return, KDDI will be able to use Rakuten’s e-payments and logistics infrastructure.