Rakuten Mobile founder and chief executive officer Mickey Mikitani

Rakuten founder and chief executive officer Mickey Mikitani. Source: AFP

Rakuten Mobile readies to go global from new Singapore HQ

  • Rakuten Mobile, Japan’s newest [virtual] telco, officially opens its international HQ in Singapore
  • The new digs will be the base of the company’s cloud-native mobile communications platform

Rakuten Mobile, the mobility and wireless networking subsidiary of Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten, has officially established its new global headquarters in Singapore.

The new international headquarters will serve as the central hub from which the company will unveil its fully virtualized, cloud-native mobile communications platform, the Rakuten Communications Platform (RCP), to overseas markets beyond its native Japan.

Last April, Rakuten Mobile became the first new mobile network operator in Japan in over 10 years, two years after securing bandwidth approval from the country’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

Two years back was also when the mobility disruptor revealed its plans to build a revolutionary fully virtualized, end-to-end cloud-native mobile network from the ground up, as announced by Rakuten Mobile Network Chief Technology Officer, Tareq Amin, at the 2018 Rakuten Technology Conference.

“The journey that we are embarking on in Japan will enable a complete transformation in the telecom infrastructure buildout,” Amin claimed at the time. “We are building the world’s first end-to-end fully virtualized cloud-native network!”

Since then, Rakuten Mobile has grown to become the biggest mobile virtual network operator in Japan, leveraging the infrastructure of the major Japanese network carriers to deliver its mobility services, which hsa proven particularly successful among younger subscribers, thanks to its low fees and rewards-based loyalty system.

Even though Japanese operations only began in April, the ambitious new entrant to the mobile network landscape is already looking towards overseas expansion by offering its RCP platform to foreign enterprise customers. Hence the opening of its global HQ in Singapore, and the hiring of Rabih Dabboussi as its global head of sales and marketing.

Daboussi has over 20 years of experience with Cisco in a variety of roles, that included research and development (R&D), technical consulting, and leadership positions, among others. He has since helped establish various startups within the mobile communications and cybersecurity fields, as well as being actively involved in the digital transformation of governments and enterprises.

His appointment as head of sales and marketing indicates that the newly-international Rakuten Mobile will be aggressively pursuing worldwide clients, including in the US where the company has already appointed Azita Arvani to be the General Manager of Rakuten Mobile, Americas.

CTO Tareq Amin commented on the Singapore HQ launch and the status of the RCP: “We are developing the Rakuten Communications Platform offering to be made available to telecom companies, government organizations and other enterprise customers around the world. RCP offers a speedy and cost-efficient deployment of fully virtualized cloud-native network services and I’m very excited to welcome Rabih Dabboussi onboard as Rakuten Mobile’s global head of sales and marketing to lead our global expansion.”

In Japan, Rakuten Mobile has secured a raft of 5G partnerships with the likes of Nokia, Altiostar, Cisco, Qualcomm, and NEC, and its CTO Amin says that the virtual network operator’s lack of outdated legacy infrastructure will give its Rakuten Communications Platform a distinct advantage over offerings from traditional telecom networks when it comes to 5G rollout.

“If you look at any traditional operator, both inside and outside of Japan, it’s actually a very unnatural process to upgrade to 5G. They have to completely virtualize their infrastructure, they have to deploy new core architecture, they have to deploy new radio access. In Rakuten’s world, the entire core technology, including our radio access network (RAN), is fully ready for 5G,” Amin was quoted as saying at the Rakuten Technology Conference.

In March last year, telecoms industry analyst Chris Lewis told our sister site TechHQ that he expects more traditional telecoms players to look to learn lessons from Rakuten Mobile’s cloud-native approach: “All telecommunications providers are watching to see how this approach pans out,” said Lewis, but added that many companies across UK, Europe, and North America will be looking at how they can build a cloud-based approach in parallel with their existing networks, owed to changing consumer expectations and the tech at their disposal.”

Rakuten – which had to delay its Japanese 5G network launch in May – has partnered with NEC to develop an open, secure, and scalable 4G and 5G cloud-native converged core, which will be a key feature of services offered to global customers through the RCP.

“RCP combines the technology blueprint and expert playbook of our work to date in building the world’s first cloud-native mobile network,” stated Amin, who is looking forward to the launch of Rakuten Mobile’s industry-disruptive platform that he says will “democratize the mobile industry”.