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Rakuten Mobile, NEC start assembling 5G network radio equipment in Japan

The NEC 5G RU produced for Rakuten Mobile

Rakuten Mobile and NEC have started manufacturing cloud-native 5G network radio equipment in Japan, with a first unit having been already exported, the latter announced. 5G is seen as an enabling and complementary technology for edge computing, and Rakuten’s ambitious plan to implement a fully virtualized mobile network has the potential to accelerate the adoption of 5G services in Japan.

This is a fifth-generation mobile communications system (5G) radio unit (RU) that the two partners are producing at an NEC factory in Fukushima.

“NEC’s 5G RU, developed and produced in Japan, will play a very important role in Rakuten Mobile’s fully virtualized cloud-native mobile network,” said Tareq Amin, Rakuten Mobile Representative Director, Executive Vice President, and CTO, in a prepared statement. “With the launch of production of the 5G radio unit, we will begin work on the construction of our 5G base stations and will aim to provide our subscribers with a cost-efficient, highly secure, high-quality 5G service.”

“NEC is very proud to be part of Rakuten Mobile’s advanced 5G network,” said Atsuo Kawamura, Executive Vice President and President of the Network Services Business Unit, NEC Corporation, in a prepared statement. “The 5G RU, produced at our Fukushima Plant, conforms with open architecture standards and comes in a compact form factor with low power consumption. By expanding the open 5G ecosystem, NEC will contribute to the creation of new mobile services around the world.”

The 5G radio unit is integrated with a 3.7 GHz frequency band massive MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output) antennae with low power use. Rakuten Mobile will use it to develop its 5G network in Tokyo and to jump-start its 5G commercial services in June. The operator is working towards a pioneering end-to-end fully virtualized cloud-native network, after already deploying virtualized OpenRAN last October.

Rakuten Mobile and NEC are further developing BSS (Business Support System) and OSS (Operation Support System) solutions for the telecommunications operator’s 4G network operations to create opportunities for further development in the region. NEC will provide further assistance and tech support through its “Solutions for Society” initiative to help the development of 5G networks and overseas expansion.

In January, Rakuten Mobile partnered with Queen’s University Belfast, in Northern Ireland, to research and develop a radio access network to optimize operations.

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