Rakuten Network By the Numbers: Launching a New Era of Mobile Networking

The official launch of the Rakuten 4G/5G mobile network plans were launched last month as it prepares for its official launch in April. The company has made headlines over the past several years for its bold plans to build Japan’s fourth nationwide mobile network.

Rakuten CEO Mickey Mikitani has been quoted as saying his original idea was to build a simple network, using legacy equipment from traditional vendors. Instead, what Mickey has built with his CTO Tareq Amin is a fully virtualized, software-defined network that eschews legacy for the virtualized functions that are the future of telecom networks.

Virtual from Day 1
Altiostar has been a part of this network since the earliest days. Rakuten has standardized on the Altiostar open vRAN solution because it has the ability to provide better quality of experience, to improve spectral efficiency and reduce total cost of ownership.

In fact just last week, we announced that Rakuten was the first company to adopt our Cloud Native vRAN solution. With this software, operators can get even more service granularity for better network scalability, easier deployability and lower costs.

The fully virtualized network that Rakuten has built is an amazing accomplishment. To celebrate this milestone with our partner and provide a vision of just how amazing this network is, let’s take a look at the network “by the numbers.”

Less than 2 years [1]: Amount of time it has taken Rakuten to build its network from nothing. The company was granted spectrum by the Japanese government in 2018.

10 minute basestation installation : Basestations used to be a challenge to install with significant site work necessary along with a week-long build out process. But Rakuten locates most of the basestation software in the cloud, so all that’s required at the base station is a remote radio head with our vRAN software. This can be installed in 10 minutes, compared to days or weeks for legacy basestations.

4,000+ basestations [2]: The short install time was one of the key reasons, that Rakuten was able to cost effectively deploy between 4,000 and 5,000 basestations to build out the RF network it needed to deliver service across Japan. The minimalistic, software-based basestation design is combined with extensive automation which simplifies ongoing maintenance to the point where Rakuten believes only few hundred people will be needed to maintain and manage this infrastructure.

Thousands of Edge Data Centers [2]: Moving computing out to the network edge is another way to increase network agility and offer low-latency services. Rakuten has created “edge clouds” to support distributed units and the termination of the user plane workloads. Control plane functionality is consolidated at two centralized data centers.

Half the cost [2]: This network architecture costs less and is much less expensive to operate, which is why Rakuten can estimate a 5G cost of service that is up to 60% less expensive than traditional networks.

Most Powerful [3]: One of the benefits of building such an innovative network is the recognition. Rakuten Mobile’s Tareq Amin was voted the most powerful person in wireless technology for 2019 according to the readers of news site FierceWireless. Amin amassed 104,148 votes to edge out American Tower’s James Taiclet with 91,346 votes in the final round.

2.2 million customer starting point [4]: Even though it is just rolling out its network, Rakuten is not new to the cellular industry. Under its Rakuten mobile virtual network operator (MNVO) brand, the company has more than 2.2 million customers in Japan.

Hundreds of carriers want a peek [5]: The bold nature of the Rakuten network has caused such a buzz in the industry that hundreds of telecom operators from across the globe have approached Rakuten to see the new network and learn more about the technologies it has deployed.

For Altiostar, Rakuten has been the perfect partner because they share our same vision, push us to be our best and invest where they see the advantage of our software.


[1] https://www.rcrwireless.com/20200226/carriers/ahead-of-japan-launch-rakuten-ceo-teases-global-ambitions

[2] https://www.lightreading.com/automation/rakuten-mobile-cto-were-stronger-faster-and-cheaper-than-you/d/d-id/751486

[3] https://www.fiercewireless.com/tech/fiercewireless-2019-most-powerful-people-wireless-tech

[4] https://www.lightreading.com/asia-pacific/netrounds-joins-rakutens-vendor-roster/d/d-id/755945

[5] https://www.sdxcentral.com/articles/news/rakuten-we-have-more-edge-locations-than-amazon/2019/11/