August 24, 2022
Japanese operator Rakuten Mobile has added another string to its O-RAN bow with the opening of its Open Innovation Lab.
Rakuten has long positioned itself as the global authority on all things Open RAN, among the manifestations of which was the creation of the Symphony spin-off to offer its expertise on the matter to other operators, for a price. This latest initiative doesn’t seem to be a Symphony thing, but it’s definitely in that ball park.
The Rakuten Mobile Open Innovation Lab is described as ‘a technology verification environment’ based on all the stuff Rakuten has learned from building its Open vRAN commercial mobile network. The idea seems to be that other operators can use it as some kind of techie sandbox to test out their virtualized Open RAN bright ideas and see how they go. The good news is that they won’t have to find way of carting it over to Tokyo, where it’s based, because partner companies can plug themselves in remotely, we’re told.
Apparently keen to stress this isn’t just about expanding its Symphony-esque ambitions, the Rakuten announcement pointed out that it will ‘expand the lab to accelerate the research and development of Open vRAN in Japan and globally, contributing to the promotion of disaggregated architecture and containerization to run cloud native network functions on commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware.’ Various Tokyo academic institutions are being lined up for that side of things, as well as the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology.
There’s no escaping the fact that Japan is where it’s at when it comes to Open RAN right now. Not only is Rakuten continually coming up with initiatives such as this one, but barely a day goes without Japanese tech giant NEC coming up with some new contribution to the collective effort. It will be interesting to see whether any other parts of the world can eventually match this level of leadership on the matter.
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