Rakuten's OpenRAN-focused venture Symphony rose above the cacophony of announcements at MWC with a flurry of partnerships and a bit of M&A for good measure.

Nick Wood

March 1, 2022

3 Min Read
Rakuten Symphony makes itself heard with Robin.io acquisition

Rakuten’s OpenRAN-focused venture Symphony rose above the cacophony of announcements at MWC with a flurry of partnerships and a bit of M&A for good measure.

The Japan-based outfit, which recently laid out its plans to grow its European presence, has agreed to acquire US cloud-native networking specialist Robin.io. Symphony’s parent Rakuten Mobile already has a strong relationship with Robin.io, tapping the company’s automation and orchestration solutions for the deployment of its fully virtualised mobile network. Rakuten Capital also led Robin.io’s $38 million funding round last June.

“The next era of digital experience requires another level of performance, responsiveness and consistency that enables telecom operator and enterprise transformation to be safely accelerated while creating a platform to support the next 10 years of experiences,” said Tareq Amin, CEO of Rakuten Symphony, in a statement. “Robin.io’s cloud capability is proven to be effective for the most demanding workloads in mobile and we believe it will allow Rakuten Symphony to safely accelerate cloud-native transformation for our customers and prepare the industry for the future.”

Following the acquisition, Robin.io will become an integral part of Symphony’s end-to-end cloud-native networking portfolio. Robin.io CEO Partha Seetala will become president of Symphony’s unified cloud business.

“We believe Robin.io’s customers will hugely benefit from the synergies of cloud-native technology innovations from Robin.io, and the open competitive infrastructure solutions and global scale of Rakuten Symphony,” Seetala said. “This is indeed an exciting phase for us as we work together to bring a much larger ecosystem together to deliver higher value for our customers globally.”

Symphony this week also strengthened its partnership with Cisco. The two companies have signed an MoU that brings together Symphony’s Symworld suite of network provisioning, automation and operations software and Cisco’s mobile, routing, switching and automation portfolios. The aim is to accelerate telco adoption of cloud-native, OpenRAN-based 4G and 5G networking. The MoU builds on a partnership established four years ago, and includes a joint go-to-market activities.

“Together with Rakuten Symphony, we have the unique opportunity to offer global service providers an alternative to legacy RAN, with a turnkey option to transform their networks to be more intuitive and automated to support the ever-evolving needs for connectivity,” noted Jonathan Davidson, EVP and general manager of Cisco’s mass-scale infrastructure group.

In addition to expanding its relationship with Cisco, Symphony announced new partners for Symworld, its app-store style portal of connectivity software. First up is Nokia, which has agreed to add all of its cloud-native applications to Symworld. It has also been chosen by Symphony as the sole vendor for various mobile core products, including IP multimedia subsystem (IMS), shared data layer (SDL), and IoT platform. Symphony also plans to add Nokia’s IoT gateway to Symworld in the near future. Meanwhile, AT&T has agreed a deal with Symphony that covers the co-development of network planning and deployment tools that will be added to Symworld, further enriching its suite of capacity planning and site management software.

The Robin.io acquisition and the deals with Nokia and AT&T are all in line with Rakuten Symphony’s effort to establish itself as the go-to provider of virtualised, OpenRAN-based mobile networking solutions. A one-stop-shop. It’s a worthy ambition, but virtualisation and OpenRAN were intended to reduce this industry’s dependency on single suppliers. Granted Symworld hosts solutions from more than one vendor, but they are offered through Symphony’s portal, creating a sense that the dependency has been shifted to Rakuten as an intermediary, but not ended entirely.

About the Author(s)

Nick Wood

Nick is a freelancer who has covered the global telecoms industry for more than 15 years. Areas of expertise include operator strategies; M&As; and emerging technologies, among others. As a freelancer, Nick has contributed news and features for many well-known industry publications. Before that, he wrote daily news and regular features as deputy editor of Total Telecom. He has a first-class honours degree in journalism from the University of Westminster.

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