Rakuten’s 5G roll-out on track, eyes taking tech abroad this year

BANGALORE: Rakuten said on Friday (Jun 26) its Japanese wireless network was on track to begin 5G services in September, after being forced to delay the introduction by three months due to disruption from the coronavirus outbreak.

Rakuten’s domestic network began commercial 4G services in April.

It has become an industry talking point with its promise of radically cutting costs for telco entrants because it uses cloud-based software and commoditised hardware instead of proprietary equipment.

The pandemic hit its 5G testing in India by vendor Altiostar Networks, in which Rakuten owns around half the equity, Rakuten Mobile’s Chief Technology Officer Tareq Amin said in an interview, with the testing backlog cleared by replicating operations in Japan.

“We’re meeting our milestones, which gives me very big confidence,” Amin said of the new timeline. He joined Rakuten in 2018 from Reliance Jio, whose low prices transformed India’s mobile market.

The Japanese e-commerce and payments firm also plans to offer technology which allows companies to create their own networks, dubbed Rakuten Communications Platform, to companies overseas. Amin said testing of the platform would begin in October.

The first customers could join the platform by year-end, Amin said, with companies already showing interest.

The test case is Rakuten’s home market, where it has suffered repeated delays to the roll-out of its, currently 4G, service and must win over consumers used to world-beating network stability.

“We are really happy in what we have achieved in terms of customer acquisition,” Amin said, declining to provide user numbers. 

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