STC hops on board the Rakuten Mobile bandwagon

In what seems to have strong echoes of a recent agreement between Rakuten Mobile and Telefónica, Japan's disruptive mobile network operator has entered into an MoU with Saudi Arabia's STC.

As with Telefónica, STC is tapping into Rakuten Mobile's expertise in bringing different vendors together to install virtualized networks in an "open" environment.

It's not a one-way street. According to the official statement, the two companies "will explore future opportunities to collaborate in various technology domains."

Collaboration work includes development of a "fully autonomous digital platform," as well as looking at different open RAN deployment options for greenfield and brownfield use cases. The idea is to look at different operating models and "business value realization."

STC said the MoU sent out a signal that it was serious about digital transformation, and committed to meeting targets set out in the Kingdom's 2030 vision.

Japan (and TIP) is not enough

Rakuten Mobile has made no secret of its desire to share abroad what it's learned about domestic deployment of its Rakuten Communications Platform (RCP).

"We are more than willing and open to collaborate and partner to make this platform even much better than it is today," said Tareq Amin, Rakuten Mobile's CTO, in a recent conference call with European journalists.

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One possible appeal for international operators hooking up with Rakuten Mobile is that the Japanese operator, arguably, offers a faster track for "end-to-end" deployment of virtualized networks than might be found elsewhere in other industry initiatives.

Enrique Blanco, chief technology and information officer at Telefónica, seemed to suggest as much when the Spanish giant signed its MoU with Rakuten Mobile. He referenced the importance of "end-to-end virtualization through an open architecture." By tapping into knowledge gleaned from RCP deployment, open RAN architectures could be made "a reality," he said.

In what might be construed as a slight dig at the Telecom Infra Project (TIP), Amin said the Facebook-led initiative had not "built the cloud infrastructure layer." But RCP, he claimed, does have a foundational cloud infrastructure, which Amin described as "a telco-hardened Docker container architecture, which can run both VMs [virtual machines] and containers."

— Ken Wieland, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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