Rakuten says network will cover 96% of Japan's population by next summer

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Rakuten expects to have 70% of Japan's population covered by March 2021. (Rakuten)

Rakuten Mobile, which only launched its LTE network in Japan four months ago, is anticipating that it will beat some of its anticipated coverage goals. In a strategy session with analysts today, company executives said that they had previously anticipated that Rakuten’s network would cover 96% of Japan’s population by 2026 but now they think the network could reach that goal by as early as summer of 2021.

In addition, Rakuten expects to have 70% of the population covered by March 2021.  The company said it currently has 5,739 sites deployed (as of June 2020) and has 7,487 sites under contract.

The company, which launched its LTE network in April, has always said that its fully virtualized network architecture will result in lower capital investment and operating costs. But now it’s adding a new benefit – better coverage. According Rakuten’s presentation, the company’s technology delivers 30% better coverage per site and is 40% less expensive compared to a traditional network built with macro cell sites. Rakuten is using a modular pole-type concrete tower that it says is easier to deploy and uses a minimum amount of space.

In June, Rakuten announced that it had 1 million applicants for its unlimited LTE service. Rakuten executives said today that those customers are heavy data users that use about 500 megabytes of data per day, which is twice as much as rival mobile networks. They also said that 50% of the traffic on the network is video and streaming.