Rakuten Symphony, the mobile network technology and service arm of the Japanese giant, is establishing new operations in the UK, France, and Germany in a bid to secure more of the European telco market and encourage the adoption of Open RAN.
The division was created earlier this year with the intention of more widely commercialising technologies and expertise cultivated at Japanese operator Rakuten Mobile.
During the 3G era, Japan was sometimes referred to as the ‘Galapagos Islands’ of mobile because of its unique handset and network ecosystem. However, the advent of 5G, demand for more interoperable, innovative technologies, and a desire for a greater diversity of suppliers means the present an opportunity for Japanese vendors Rakuten and NEC.
Open RAN adoption
Rakuten Symphony hopes the three new locations will allow it to get closer to operator and business customers, collaborate with other vendors in the space, and attract more talent that will improve its overall offering for the industry.
“Europe is a mature market for mobile network infrastructure and yet mobile network operators and governments are incredibly open to the opportunities Open RAN technologies can bring to the region,” said Tareq Amin, CEO of Rakuten Symphony.
“We’re expanding our operations across Europe to strengthen our research and development capabilities and our commitment to the region. We will collaborate closely with European operators, vendors, governments and academic institutions to contribute to developing the region’s Open RAN technologies, while working to realize our vision of providing a future-proof, cost-effective, cloud-based connectivity platform to transform the delivery of telecommunications services by mobile network operators.”
The UK operation will be based in London and will focus on the development of 4G and 5G Open RAN software and hardware. OpenRAN is a vendor-neutral approach to Radio Access Network (RAN) with standardised designs that allow a variety of firms to supply hardware and software.
This means operators benefit from increased innovation from a wider range of suppliers, reduced costs, and greater flexibility because the threat of vendor lock-in is reduced. The company hopes the investment in R&D will put it in a better position to help the UK government meet its target of 35% of all UK mobile traffic carried by Open RAN by the end of the decade.
The French site will be based in Paris, supported by an existing technology centre in Montpellier, and the German unit will call Dusseldorf home.
Meanwhile, Rakuten Symphony has also revealed a new suite of software, based on innovations powering Rakuten Mobile, that make it easier for operators to plan, design, build and operate networks.
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Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.