The partnership formed by the two companies will see Rakuten and NEC jointly develop a 3.7 GHz massive MIMO 5G antenna radio unit (RU) for the open vRAN architecture, which will be manufactured by NEC at its facilities in Japan. The RU is ideal for 5G conditions as it is compact, lightweight and consumes a low level of power, which reduces installation and operation costs.
Rakuten Mobile is currently building the world's first fully virtualized, end-to-end cloud-native mobile network. This innovative network is fully virtualized from radio access network to core and adopts 5G systems architecture from launch. In April 2019, Rakuten Mobile received approval from the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications for its 5G special radio station deployment plan and aims to launch 5G services in June 2020.
In building the network, Rakuten is nurturing an open ecosystem by actively engaging with industry leaders in crafting solutions. Rakuten and NEC are already working together on an end-to-end BSS/OSS system to support the mobile network launch and subsequent operations. The expansion of the partnership with NEC to include 5G network equipment further builds upon Rakuten's vision of the disaggregation of hardware and software and true end-to-end virtualization of mobile networks, especially in radio access.