Virtualized network operator scraps fees for contract sign-up and number portability in a bid to stimulate demand.

Ken Wieland, contributing editor

November 4, 2020

3 Min Read
Rakuten Mobile tries to woo customers with more price cuts

As part of what it called the "Zero Declaration," a new marketing initiative designed to reduce financial and bureaucratic "burdens" on customers, Japan's disruptive mobile network operator (MNO) pulled the plug on contract sign-up fees and charges for number portability.

Rakuten Mobile was once again quick to claim it had much more leeway to reduce retail prices than traditional MNOs, courtesy of its "fully virtualized cloud native mobile network."

The Japanese mobile operator is no stranger to aggressive pricing. Monthly charges for its 4G service, launched in April, are pitched as 67% cheaper than equivalent services from rivals.

Rakuten Mobile's 5G service launched in September, dubbed Un-Limit V (it includes unlimited data), is priced the same as 4G and is apparently 71% cheaper than comparable offers (although Rakuten 5G coverage is still fairly limited).

Following the Zero Declaration unveiling, the Un-Limit V service plan was updated to Rakuten Un Limit V 2.0.

By the end of March next year, Rakuten Mobile aims to have 5G launched in every prefecture. The aim the following quarter is to switch from a Cisco 4G core to an NEC 5G one, supporting standalone 5G.

Online ID verification

As a way to try and reduce customer hassle when signing online contracts, Rakuten Mobile bragged it will be the first mobile operator in Japan to introduce the "AI Kantan Honnin Kakunin" (AI Easy ID Verification) eKYC (electronic Know Your Customer) system.

Want to know more about 5G? Check out our dedicated 5G content channel here on Light Reading.

Slated for availability on November 9, the eKYC service allows customers to verify their identity with their smartphone by taking a photo of their driver's license and face.

To date, the online IDC verification process for would-be Rakuten Mobile customers has been a bit more cumbersome. This is only done after customers upload the required identification documents in advance, or after the customer displays the required documents at the time of product delivery in placing an online order.

Part of the O-RAN Alliance gang

Completing a trio of announcements today, Rakuten Mobile said it had joined the O-RAN Alliance. Tareq Amin, Rakuten Mobile's CTO was today appointed as a member of the board of directors.

"As a member of the O-RAN Alliance," said Amin, "we will leverage the experience gained from the development of our open, virtualized network in Japan to contribute to the creation of a fully open standard for RAN for the world."

One of the immediate concerns of the O-RAN Alliance is the putting in place of open interfaces between the distributed unit (DU) and the radio unit (RU) within the RAN. By breaking up the RAN into multiple modular systems, which are cloudified and virtualized, operators can wriggle free from vendor lock-ins.

— Ken Wieland, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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About the Author(s)

Ken Wieland

contributing editor

Ken Wieland has been a telecoms journalist and editor for more than 15 years. That includes an eight-year stint as editor of Telecommunications magazine (international edition), three years as editor of Asian Communications, and nearly two years at Informa Telecoms & Media, specialising in mobile broadband. As a freelance telecoms writer Ken has written various industry reports for The Economist Group.

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