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‘Open’ for business – Japanese telco disruptor launches customer experience center in UK

Japanese ICT behemoth Rakuten Symphony has announced the opening of its Rakuten Open RAN Customer Experience Center, in the United Kingdom.

The announcement represents a new era of British-Japanese technological collaboration and the European advancement of Open Radio Access Networks (Open RAN).

The new Center underlines the commitment by Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC) and the UK’s Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) to increase telecommunications supplier diversity.

The Center will serve as a European hub for interoperability testing around the viability of Open RAN in new and existing networks.

It will be used to host workshops and events demonstrating how the latest Open RAN hardware and software and next-generation mobile networks will be used to improve operational efficiency and new services.

Telecom operators and industry suppliers in Europe and the Middle East will be invited to test advancements in Open RAN technologies to support safe, open and transparent 5G networks.

Rakuten Mobile launched the world’s first fully virtualized cloud-native mobile network in Japan, based on Open RAN standards. Its network costs 40% less to build and up to 30% less to operate than traditional mobile networks.

Unlike traditional proprietary networks, Open RAN allows different vendors to provide different parts of the networks. The networks are software-driven, based on open standards, and run in the cloud on commercial off-the-shelf servers.

Updates to the network are made through software, with a single push of a switch. Telecom operators no longer must wait until the next generation to add services for their customers.

“As Japan and the United Kingdom strengthen their technological collaboration, MIC of Japan believes the opening of Rakuten’s Open RAN Customer Experience Center is truly meaningful for the evolution of secure and smart 5G in the UK and Europe,” said Yuki Naruse, Director for International Policy Coordination, International Economic Affairs Division, Global Strategy Bureau, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Japan. “MIC intends for the Center to contribute to diversification of the telecommunications supply chain and will enhance interoperability among Japanese and international suppliers by increasing awareness about Open RAN in Europe and around the world.”

“As demand for diversity in telecommunications supply chains intensifies, our UK Customer Experience Centre will provide an essential touchpoint for education about Open RAN and the potential for Rakuten Symphony’s solutions to improve the operational efficiency and sustainability of mobile network operators,” said Tareq Amin, Chief Executive Officer, Rakuten Mobile & Rakuten Symphony. “The UK and Japan are countries with vast digital potential and this investment represents an example of leadership in innovation in the European region.”

Julia Lopez, Minister of State, Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT), said: “In the UK we are delivering a £250 million strategy to make our telecoms networks more secure, resilient and less reliant on just a handful of equipment suppliers. I’m thrilled that a new cutting-edge centre is opening in the UK to develop solutions to this global problem, as part of our partnership with Rakuten and the Japanese Government. Together we will accelerate diverse and innovative 5G technology that will make our lives easier, grow the economy and help maintain the UK’s position as a tech and science superpower.”

The opening of the Center in the UK follows the launch of the Rakuten Mobile Open Innovation Lab in Tokyo in August 2022.

Rakuten Mobile is contributing as a founding partner of the Japan OTIC lab established in December 2022 as a center for testing and certification based on international standards, ensuring interoperability of O-RAN solutions.

It has been a member of the O-RAN Alliance since 2020 and continues to strive to contribute to the technical development and global adoption of innovative, open and intelligent RAN.

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