Rakuten Mobile launches its greenfield network in Japan

Rakuten Mobile began building its greenfield wireless network in Japan in mid-2018, and today it announced the full-scale commercial launch of its 4G mobile service.

For a few weeks, the company has been offering a pre-launch unlimited plan for about $28 per month. This includes unlimited data within its own network areas as well as roaming on partner networks with partner roaming data capped at 2GB per month. But today, Rakuten Mobile increased the partner roaming data cap to 5GB per month in light of the coronavirus crisis. The company said it wants to help customers as they are forced to work and learn from home. After customers exhaust their 5GB of roaming data, then Rakuten has increased the maximum data transmission speed in these partner areas from 128 Kbps to 1 Mbps.

Rakuten Mobile CTO Tareq Amin said in a LinkedIn post, “Today marks a very special day for me, My Employees and My Colleagues. Today Rakuten Mobile is fully launched in Japan, unveiling "Rakuten UN-LIMIT 2.0" One Plan. This journey started in June-2018 with a dream and an idea to build the world first virtualized, highly secure, Open Cloud Connectivity Platform. Welcome to the Future!!!”

Rakuten Mobile has made waves in the wireless world for developing the first fully virtualized mobile network. The company is continuing its network buildout with plans to nearly double the number of base stations by March 2021. And it plans to transition its network to 5G as soon as possible.

RELATED: Rakuten explains vendor roles in greenfield network

Rakuten Mobile worked with a slew vendors to build its network. Amin told FierceWireless recently that Rakuten oversaw all of the network software itself and acted as its own systems integrator. “We only do operation support contracts,” he said. “We are in control of our own destiny.” In order to be in control, Amin said, “I was personally micromanaging to a level of detail because I knew if we didn’t act as the systems integrator we would never accomplish such a thing. We had to make sure all these vendors, who are competitors, we had to convince them to collaborate and work together, do the integration in our labs.”

RELATED: Rakuten Mobile’s CTO says RAN wasn’t as troublesome as other things: Special Report on Automation

Asked about lessons learned during the historic network buildout Amin also said, “We stumbled quite a bit, not in the areas I thought we would be most challenged. I thought RAN would be most complex. But of all my challenges I have faced, I attribute 10% to radio and 90% to everything else.”

It was the little things that caused some of the biggest headaches. For instance, working with the new BSS/OSS system for policy and charging was a challenge. Amin said the company is planning to acquire a start-up BSS/OSS company that it worked with on the project, and it will be announcing that company’s name in the next couple of weeks.