Japanese operator Rakuten Mobile, a subsidiary of e-commerce giant Rakuten, and NEC announced that they have begun production of a jointly developed 5G mobile communications system radio unit (RU), and that the first unit has been shipped.
Production started at NEC Platforms’ plant in Fukushima, Japan, both firms said in a release.
“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, EVP and CTO for Rakuten Mobile. “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, EVP and president of the network services business unit at NEC. “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 new 5G RU is equipped with a 3.7 GHz massive MIMO antenna in a compact form factor with low power consumption, the partners said. With the 5G RU, Rakuten Mobile will begin the construction of its 5G network, starting with the construction of base stations in the Tokyo area, and work toward the launch of 5G commercial services in June 2020.
Rakuten Mobile is building what it claims to be the world’s first end-to-end fully virtualized cloud native network. In October 2019, the company implemented an open, virtualized, distributed radio access network in Japan.
Earlier this month, Rakuten Mobile officially started accepting customer applications for its mobile service, scheduled to be launched next month.
Rakuten Mobile is initially launching a single unlimited plan with free service over the first 12 months for 3 million customers.
The carrier said that after the first year, the package will have a monthly cost of JPY2,980 ($27.50).
The Japanese company expects to launch its mobile service in April. Rakuten Mobile plans to offer nationwide coverage using rival telco KDDI’s network in areas where its network doesn’t yet reach.
In late September 2019, Rakuten Mobile had delayed a nationwide launch planned for October, instead introducing a trial service for a limited number of subscribers. The operator postponed the expected commercial launch as it had been experiencing some delays in the deployment of mobile base stations, according to previous reports.
Rakuten Mobile said its own network service area will cover the 23 wards of Tokyo, Nagoya City, Osaka City and parts of Hyogo prefecture. The company will offer nationwide LTE services to customers from the time of launch through services based on the roaming agreement with KDDI Corporation and Okinawa Cellular Telephone Company, to be provided outside of Tokyo’s 23 wards, Nagoya City and Osaka City and excluding high-traffic areas.
Rakuten Mobile said it already deployed 3,490 base stations. The company plans to have 4,400 mobile stations by the end of March and exceed its target of 8,600 mobile stations across Japan by March 2021.