Rakuten opens lab for Open vRAN

Rakuten Mobile said its new Mobile Open Innovation Lab offers verification for technologies used in its open RAN network. #pressrelease

August 24, 2022

3 Min Read

TOKYO – Rakuten Mobile, Inc. today announced the opening of the Rakuten Mobile Open Innovation Lab, a technology verification environment that utilizes the technologies and experience acquired by the operator through building its Open vRAN commercial mobile network. As of today, the virtualized Open vRAN verification platform will be made available to operators, vendors, and other enterprises, in addition to academic organizations. Rakuten Mobile will also 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. This new approach to mobile networks brings many benefits to carriers, including reduction of the total cost of ownership (TCO), increased automation and innovation.

Open vRAN is a type of mobile technology where the protocols and interfaces for the various equipment in the radio access network (RAN) are open, enabling interoperability between equipment and systems from different vendors. As demands on mobile networks diversify, Open vRAN makes it possible to build multi-vendor networks, allowing operators to flexibly procure network equipment and reduce network construction costs. In addition, the open standards offer greater security and transparency in the RAN.

In Japan, Rakuten Mobile has deployed Rakuten Mobile Open Innovation Lab functions in the Rakuten Cloud Innovation Lab and will also provide Open RAN technology verification environments at Tokyo Institute of Technology and the University of Tokyo Graduate School of Engineering Nakao Laboratory campuses, both of which are remotely connected to the lab. Rakuten Mobile is also carrying out joint research and development*1 with the Tokyo Institute of Technology*2 and the University of Tokyo as part of the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) "Beyond 5G R&D Promotion Project."

As partner companies are able to connect to the lab remotely, Open vRAN technology verification is made possible without traveling to the testing location or building a verification environment on site, thus accelerating and simplifying the development process. Rakuten Mobile also has the ability to build technology verification capabilities in facilities owned by partner companies.

Rakuten Mobile is providing its commercial mobile service on an Open vRAN mobile network that is compliant with the technical specifications for Open vRAN defined by the O-RAN ALLIANCE*3. Rakuten Mobile's network architecture meets the requirements for foundation components for networks in the Beyond 5G era as defined by the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC)*4. By sharing its experience with partner companies through the lab, Rakuten Mobile aims to make it easier for operators to carry out complex multi-vendor end-to-end connectivity tests and O-RAN specification compliance and interoperability tests.

The Rakuten Mobile Open Innovation Lab utilizes the same architecture as Rakuten Mobile's flexible, virtualized network in which the distributed unit (vDU) and centralized unit (vCU) are disaggregated. This platform makes it possible to execute test cases from multiple locations and realize a flexible Open vRAN deployment that matches the partner company's network requirements.

Looking ahead to "Beyond 5G," the Rakuten Mobile Open Innovation Lab aims to support trials to optimize network design and operation through the vRAN Intelligent Controller (RIC), an intelligent component which manages and controls the RAN. Rakuten Mobile is also developing AI applications for the RIC platform, which is expected to automatically improve the performance and stability of Open vRAN, for example by detecting and predicting traffic and anomalies on the network.

Rakuten Mobile aims to continue to contribute to the promotion of Open vRAN in Japan and around the world, as well as the development of Japanese communications technology. This includes the establishment of efficient and effective Open vRAN testing methods.


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