Rakuten Symphony CEO Tareq Amin sees the company as a platform provider and partner rather than as a vendor
When he came from Reliance Jio to serve as upstart Rakuten Mobile’s Chief Technology Officer, Tareq Amin’s priority was to build and commercialize a network that could meet the demanding quality standards of Japanese consumers and do it with an eye on cloud-native automation capabilities and an Open RAN architecture that have double-digit impacts on total cost of ownership.
Since then, this mission has evolved to include the development of the Rakuten Communications Platform—a blueprint that packages up Rakuten Mobile’s network approach for other operators, enterprises and governments—the acquisition of virtualized Radio Access Network (vRAN) software specialist Altiostar, and the launch of Rakuten Symphony, a new organization Amin heads that’s dedicated to selling RCP and other network and managed services.
“This has been absolutely exciting to get from the idea of running a mobile network to taking the four years of lessons learned and packaging it into our new platform,” Amin told RCR Wireless News in an interview during Mobile World Congress Los Angeles. As far as the outlook for the platform Amin is now tasked with selling globally, Rakuten sees a 12-figure opportunity. “When we looked at the total addressable market,” Amin said, “…the forecast of $130 billion spent by 2030 is very realistic. This is a business that’s all in or nothing.”
While Rakuten has provided intermittent tallies of Rakuten Communications Platform wins, the most public deal is with 1%1 Drillisch which is looking to enter the German market as a facilities-based carrier and has hired Rakuten to build a fully-virtualized, cloud-native network.
“Rather than using [PowerPoint] presentations, we started logging into the system of Rakuten Mobile,” Amin said of the engagement with 1%1. This included a look at key network performance metrics and details of infrastructure provisioning, which Rakuten has invested heavily in automating. “All these systems coming alive, all this resonated with them really, really well.”
Amin has described Japanese consumers as “quality-obsessed” and shared anecdotal stories about customers who experience a dropped call or otherwise sub-optimal network experience sharing their stories far and wide on social media. This led to the development of new service assurance tools that went from generalized customer experience measures to drilling down to “accurate empirical data” at an individual subscriber level. Amin said these experiences have prepared the company to facilitate a successful network deployment in Germany. “When we think of Germany, we just think of marvelous engineering and precision.”
Given its packaging of a vendor stack and acquisition of key Open RAN ecosystem member Altiostar, Rakuten has faced industry criticism that it’s cultivating a new type of vendor lock-in, something antithetical to the supplier diversity/carrier optionality mantra of Open RAN.
The goal isn’t to become a vendor, Amin said—”I don’t like this word,”—but to be a platform partner. “It feels more representative of what we want to be. We want to be a platform provider…a platform that enables future customers to move toward a far more agile, digitized, cloud-/software-enabled DNA. I think our approach is going to be utterly different.”