“We have urged suppliers to share source code and collaborate to build an open 5G core network.”
“We also plan to bring our experience and technology to the market packaged as a service to help global operators deploy full-cloud telecom networks.”
Rakuten Mobile, the ambition of this new operator, not only wants to be an operator, but also wants to be a vendor in the telecom cloud era.
Let’s start with Rakuten Mobile’s cloud network architecture.
Rakuten Mobile named their telecom cloud platform RCP, the full name is Rakuten Communications Platform, and its architecture is as follows:
RCP Cluster is located at the cloud infrastructure layer and is a containerized system based on K8s.
Based on the underlying containerized cloud infrastructure, RCP Functions is responsible for integration and orchestration to flexibly “assemble” the network functions (VNFs) of the RAN and 5G core network.
By introducing AI into the OSS/BSS domain, network management automation is realized, and automatic operation of the entire life cycle from service design, creation to operation and maintenance is realized.
Similar to the “App Store”, it opens network capabilities to third-party developers to stimulate application innovation; provides partners with a unified Portal entry to facilitate the purchase and deployment of network services.
In March of this year, Rakuten Mobile announced that its end-to-end cloud-native mobile network’s Capex is 40% cheaper and Opex is 30% cheaper than traditional telecom networks (RAN).
Based on the RCP architecture, how does Rakuten save costs?
Nothing more than two: generalization and automation.
In terms of generalization, there are nearly 100 server hardware configurations (SKUs) in traditional telecom networks, while RCP Cluster aims to “take all” the functions of all virtualized network elements with one or several server SKUs, thereby greatly reducing the complexity of hardware design It can save 40% of the network deployment cost.
In terms of automation, Rakuten RCP includes two automations, one is end-to-end network management automation, and the other is service life cycle management automation to save labor costs. Rakuten once announced that the operation and maintenance team of its entire network is only 130 people.
For example, the Rakuten Mobile Cloud Infrastructure Technology Development and Operation Department has introduced the vRAN automated site opening process.
As shown in the figure above, from the RIU of the base station sending the activation request to the network element management system (EMS), to the generation of vDU and vCU VNF, to the configuration of the base station and cell parameters in the OSS, and then to the activation of the cell, the whole process takes only a few minutes to complete, and almost no labor is required. operate.
Rakuten Mobile said that in the traditional mobile network, to complete the above steps requires a lot of manual operations, which take hours or even days, thus increasing the operator’s TCO, while Rakuten Mobile’s end-to-end automation can significantly reduce Labor costs.
So what’s so special about Rakuten’s RCP architecture?
As we all know, the 5G core network is designed for cloud native, based on microservices and containerized deployment. Following network function virtualization (NFV), it further decomposes VNF (virtualized network function) into smaller-grained, stateless, relatively independent and flexibly callable network function service modules, so as to achieve a more fine-grained modularization “Assemble” the network function. At the same time, the openness of network capabilities and automation of network operations are also key features of the 5G core network.
In fact, from a technical point of view, Rakuten RCP is not much different from the current 5G core network solutions of all manufacturers and operators.
The main difference is: end-to-end cloudification and an ambition buried in the RCP architecture.
Let’s talk about end-to-end cloudification first.
For traditional operators, the current network cloudification mainly focuses on the core network, and Rakuten Mobile will also cloudize/virtualize the RAN (Radio Access Network).
As shown in the figure above, Rakuten Mobile’s core network and vRAN functional software are deployed based on the unified RCP Cluster cloud infrastructure, and end-to-end automation is achieved through the unified RCP Automator.
Regarding Rakuten Mobile’s ambitions buried in the RCP architecture, let’s take a look at a series of moves by this new operator in the past year.
Since Rakuten Mobile announced in 2019 that it will build the world’s first end-to-end fully virtualized cloud-native mobile communication network, it has continuously filled its RCP architecture through strategic investments, acquisitions or in-depth cooperation.
In May 2019, Rakuten Mobile made a strategic investment in vRAN software provider Altiostar.
Altostar is the software provider for Rakuten Mobile’s virtualized RAN. Following this investment, Rakuten Mobile’s President and CTO will join Altiostar’s Board of Directors.
In March 2020, Rakuten Mobile and NEC announced that the Open RAN 5G RU (Radio Unit), jointly developed by the two companies, has started production and has delivered the first device.
According to Rakuten data, the RU supports Massive MIMO 32T32R with an EIRP value of 71dBm.
In May 2020, Rakuten Mobile announced plans to acquire Innoeye.
Innoeye is a company that provides automated OSS solutions, corresponding to the RCP Automator part of RCP.
On June 4, 2020, Rakuten Mobile announced a collaboration with Japanese supplier NEC to develop a containerized 5G cloud-native core network.
Pay attention to the two red circles in the above picture. This cooperation can be said to be very in-depth, requiring the core network to be open and the source code to be shared.
“In the era of 5G core network, everything has to be cloud-native, built on a microservice architecture and stateless design. Our goal is to deploy on our own cloud platform.” A few days ago, Rakuten Mobile CTO said at In an online meeting, it said:
“We have urged NEC to change the thinking of traditional equipment suppliers and build an open 5G core network by sharing source code and jointly innovating.”
Looking back at the Rakuten Mobile RCP architecture diagram, it contains all the elements of a 4G/5G mobile network, including RAN and core network function software from multiple vendors, OSS/BSS systems, orchestrators and controllers, operations platform etc.
Obviously, Rakuten Mobile’s ambition is to integrate all cloud network “elements” into RCP by investing in and acquiring some small software suppliers in the RCP architecture on the one hand, and openly cooperating with giants such as NEC and Cisco on the other hand, and finally forming a single cloud network. A complete set of cloud-native packaging solutions controlled by itself, and then provided to other telecom operators or private network operators.
As a result, Rakuten Mobile’s role has changed, from a carrier to a hybrid telecom company that integrates the roles of supplier, integrator and operator. Ambitious!