Rakuten Mobile, the newly established mobile network subsidiary of e-commerce giant Rakuten Group, and equipment manufacturer NEC Corp have teamed up to build what they claim is the world’s first 5G open vRAN architecture in Japan. The gear maker has been selected to be the 5G network equipment provider for Rakuten Mobile’s new network, it was confirmed via a press release. Under the partnership agreement, the pair will jointly develop a 3.7GHz 5G Massive MIMO antenna to provide a compact, lightweight option, reducing installation and operation costs due to its low level power consumption. The tie-up, which reportedly includes plans to deploy around 16,000 low-cost 5G base stations across the country over five years, builds upon Rakuten Mobile’s wider plan to deploy a fully virtualised, end-to-end cloud-native mobile network. The Nikkei writes, meanwhile, that using the low-cost 5G Massive MIMO antenna radio unit (RU) trims costs to about JPY8.2 million (USD76,000) per RU, or 10%-20% of what NTT DOCOMO currently pays.
Rakuten Mobile received approval from the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC) for its 5G special radio station deployment plan and aims to introduce 5G services in June 2020. The MVNO-turned MNO aims to launch its fledgling 4G mobile service in October this year, promising low-cost options to entice users away from the big three NTT DOCOMO, KDDI (au) and SoftBank Corp.