The tech will not only be incorporated in Rakuten’s own 5G network, but also offered commercially to other operators
Rakuten and NEC yesterday announced that they were collaborating to build a container-based standalone 5G core. This alone is a major undertaking, but they also want to bring this tech to market, placing them in direct competition with the world’s largest vendors, like Huawei and Ericsson.The 5G core network will be made available via the Rakuten Communications Platform, with the core offered as an application on the Platform’s Marketplace. “It may sound strange that two Japanese companies are now trying to challenge the global telecoms industry, but I’m very confident we will be able to bring the Japan-quality platform to the world,” said Rakuten chairman and CEO Mickey Mikitani. The announcement continues a long partnership between the two companies, which have previously worked together to develop a 3.7 GHz massive MIMO 5G antenna, as well as on billing and operations support software. “Following the BSS/OSS for the 4G network and 5G radio equipment that we have already begun offering, we look forward to providing a high-quality, highly reliable 5G core and contributing to Rakuten Mobile’s 5G services,” said Atsuo Kawamura, NEC’s president of network services. Rakuten’s initial plans to launch 5G were delayed by the coronavirus, but the disruptive company still intends to to launch its non-standalone 5G network later this year, with hopes of a standalone network by 2021. Rakuten is not the first company to try and go it alone for 5G. Back in March, Reliance Jio announced that it was working on its own 5G technology, which would have removed the need for the larger vendors entirely. However, the news of companies like Rakuten and Jio developing their own 5G tech is not likely to challenge the major vendors just yet. While these operators certainly have the expertise and financial weight to attempt such a daring feat, they will be taking on some of the largest companies in the world, with decades of experience and staggering R&D budgets. That said, the cost savings of home-grown 5G would be significant and it is likely the case that if one operator can prove it can achieve this milestone effectively, then other operators around the world will begin to look at the proposition far more seriously. Rakuten is well known as a company that does not follow the norm, having launched their fully virtualised 4G mobile network with a myriad of smaller vendors. It would certainly not be beyond them to shake up the 5G status quo just as seriously.