Rakuten is building a 3.7 GHz massive MIMO 5G radio with NEC

Rakuten chose a local Japanese vendor for this collaboration. (Getty Images)

Rakuten Mobile, the company that is building a greenfield mobile network in Japan, is working with NEC to develop a 3.7 GHz massive MIMO 5G antenna radio unit (RU), which will be manufactured by NEC at its facilities in Japan.

RELATED: Rakuten builds a greenfield wireless network in Japan

The network will be fully virtualized from radio access network (RAN) to core and, although it will initially be a 4G LTE network, it will adopt 5G systems architecture from launch. In April, Rakuten Mobile received approval from the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications for its 5G special radio station deployment plan, and it aims to launch 5G services in June 2020.


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Rakuten and NEC/Netcracker are also working together on an end-to-end BSS/OSS system to support the mobile network. NEC is among a slew of vendors that Rakuten is using to build its fully virtualized, end-to-end cloud-native mobile network. Some of those other vendors include Cisco, Nokia, Altiostar, Intel, Red Hat, OKI, Fujitsu, Ciena, Qualcomm, Mavenir, Quanta Cloud Technology, Sercomm, Tech Mahindra, Allot, Innoeye, and Viavi.

Rakuten said in February that it was already in the process of constructing its radio antenna network, which is on track for an October 2019 launch in Japan. But it only today announced that it was developing new 5G radio hardware in conjunction with NEC.

Tareq Amin, chief technology officer of Rakuten Mobile, said in a statement, “NEC’s technology and expertise will allow us to not only cost-effectively create a highly secure, high quality 5G network, but by designing and producing the antennas in the local market, we look forward to contributing to the development of the Japanese telecommunications industry and economy.”

RELATED: Cisco installs 4,000 edge nodes for Rakuten’s wireless network

In addition to NEC, Rakuten is working with Cisco to build its network functions virtualization infrastructure (NFVi) with 4,000 edge nodes. Cisco is delivering software as well as routing and switching hardware, and Cisco is also the primary systems integrator for Rakuten’s virtualized telco cloud.

RELATED: Cisco’s early bet on RAN virtualization propels Altiostar

Rakuten is also working with U.S.-based Altiostar on RAN virtualization. “With our tech we virtualize all the functions of the baseband: Layers 1, 2 and 3,” said Thierry Maupile, Altiostar’s EVP of strategy and product, in an earlier interview with FierceWireless. Altiostar’s baseband unit can be split into virtualized distributed units (vDUs) and virtualized central units (vCUs). Thierry said in Japan, in its work with Rakuten, Altiostar is deploying vDUs at the 4,000 edge compute sites and vCUs at two sites.

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