Japanese wireless network operator Rakuten Mobile has established a new joint venture company in its domestic market with Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) to deploy base stations at existing power grid sites as it looks to further expand its 4G and 5G coverage in a more efficient way.
The new company, called Rakuten Mobile Infrastructure Solution, began operating in Tokyo on July 1st. The entity has an initial nominal value of ¥300m (approximately $2.2m), with Rakuten Mobile owning a 51% stake in the venture and TEPCO holding the remaining 49% stake, the operator said in a statement (available in Japanese here).
Rakuten Mobile Infrastructure Solution is set to contribute to the telco’s vision for a stable communication environment by enhancing the efficiency of maintaining base stations through effective use of public assets. The new company will also look to develop installation specifications for Rakuten Mobile’s base station equipment and manage installation-related works.
The Japanese telecom industry upstart, which already covers 96% of the Japanese population with its 4G service, noted it is using “some power assets” to further build out its network.
Through the new company, Rakuten Mobile plans to expand its 4G and 5G networks, boost the density of base station deployments and “strengthen the development of communication infrastructure with the aim of providing stable services”. As it will use the existing power assets of TEPCO for the purpose (alongside the power company’s construction capabilities and know-how), the telco believes it can “improve the cost efficiency of base station maintenance”.
This is not the first engagement for the two companies: In March 2018, Rakuten Mobile secured an agreement to make use of TEPCO’s steel towers, power distribution poles, building roofs and other infrastructure, just a few months before it began building its greenfield cellular network, and in 2019 was part of a broader mobile operator initiative with TEPCO related to power grid infrastructure sharing.
Japan’s Rakuten Group today announced that they have resolved to incorporate Rakuten Symphony, a business organization of the Company, and start considering a capital and business alliance (in other words, investments).
As announced on August 4, 2021 in “Rakuten launches Rakuten Symphony to accelerate adoption of cloud-native, open RAN-based mobile networks worldwide,” alongside Rakuten Communications Platform (hereafter “RCP“), Rakuten Symphony, a new business organization, was newly launched by consolidating the products and services to be implemented.
Rakuten Symphony aims to provide a future-proof, cost-effective, communication cloud platform for carriers, businesses and government agencies around the world.
Rakuten Symphony is a global business organization that develops solution businesses in Japan, the United States, Singapore, India, Europe, and the Middle East / Africa. Through this incorporation, accountability (duties) will be clarified, flexible decision-making and business execution will be possible, and products, services, and solutions for telecommunications carriers will be consolidated across the board.
“We will be ready to provide 4G and 5G infrastructure and platform solutions to the global market.”
In addition, as announced in “1&1 and Rakuten agree far-reaching partnership to build Europe’s first fully virtualized mobile network based on new Open RAN technology” also on August 4, 1&1 has agreed to comprehensively adopt RCP. This business has been steadily accumulating its achievements. In order to further accelerate the global expansion of innovative mobile network solutions, Rakuten Symphony, Inc., a newly established corporation, will consider accepting capital, etc. in addition to business partnerships with strategic partners.
The Company will establish its position as a global leader in cloud-centric and virtualized Open RAN-based mobile networks, by expanding its communication platform business overseas, as well as its track record of expanding its mobile carrier business in Japan.
It’s no surprise that Rakuten is pulling out all the stops to make Symphony a success. The operation’s Symphony contract with flagship customer 1&1 in Germany is worth between $2.3 billion and $2.7 billion over a ten-year period, reports Nikkei Asia. By contrast, Rakuten made about $1.8 billion in revenues at its Japanese mobile business in the last year.
“This business has been steadily accumulating its achievements,” Rakuten wrote this week, pointing specifically to its 1&1 deal.
Light Reading reported in March 2020 of Rakuten’s plans to sell a networking platform internationally. The offering was initially dubbed Rakuten Mobile Platform (RMP), and then Rakuten Communications Platform (RCP), but the company in August named it Symphony and said the operation targeted an addressable market of up to $100 billion.
Symphony is essentially the portfolio of technologies Rakuten uses in its Japanese mobile network – alongside other offerings from its partners – that it is now pitching to other service providers and networking hopefuls worldwide. According to Rakuten, companies can purchase all or parts of Symphony in order to quickly and easily roll out their own open RAN 5G networks.
Thus, Symphony is now on a collision course with a wide range of other players selling similar offerings. Ericsson, Amazon, Google and Mavenir are among the many providers hoping to assemble a product portfolio stretching across core networking, radio hardware and associated software and services, and then to rope in deals with customers ranging from enterprises to government agencies.