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Rakuten and Yokosuka open lab to accelerate Open RAN development

Rakuten Mobile, Inc. and Yokosuka Telecom Research Park Co., Ltd. opened a new RIC (RAN Intelligent Controller)*¹ research facility at the Yokosuka Research Park in Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan, with the aim of contributing to the further advancement of Open RAN (Radio Access Network) development.

Rakuten Mobile will conduct research and development (R&D) on RIC at the research facility, while Yokosuka Telecom Research Park will provide the research location, as the two companies aim to accelerate the advancement of Open RAN technologies. The research facility will be used to verify improvements in network efficiency, power saving and security enhancements by deploying emulators for RIC development, and using RICs to manage Rakuten Mobile’s test RAN environment according to network usage conditions.

Furthermore, the two companies will contribute to the international standardization of Open RAN, by sharing the insights gained at the research facility with the O-RAN ALLIANCE, an organization that promotes the formulation of Open RAN specifications, and Japan OTIC*², an organization that tests and certifies equipment based on O-RAN specifications.

The research facility is equipped with a verification environment that uses Rakuten Mobile’s fully virtualized cloud-native mobile network, allowing domestic and international telecommunications and communication service provider equipment manufacturers and other Rakuten Mobile partners to access the research facility remotely to verify Open RAN integration and conduct RIC proof-of-concept (PoC) testing*³. In addition, by running the emulator software for Open RAN integration on a general-purpose server remotely available to other research facilities, Rakuten Mobile and Yokosuka Telecom Research Park will be able to establish a collaborative R&D environment with partners worldwide, unrestricted by geography boundaries, that facilitates rapid research and development.

Rakuten Mobile launched the world’s first large-scale, commercial Open RAN mobile network in Japan and is conducting various research projects to accelerate the advancement of Open RAN. The company is currently conducting research and development of RICs as principal researcher for a project sponsored by the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT), titled “Research and Development of Open RAN Wireless Communication Technologies to Realize Advanced RAN Infrastructure Beyond 5G.”*⁴ With this new RIC research facility, Rakuten Mobile plans to take the lead in the research and development of RICs for use in commercial networks and also to utilize the research facility for the NICT-sponsored project.

Yokosuka Telecom Research Park provides the infrastructure necessary for conducting demonstration experiments of next-generation telco technology at the Yokosuka Research Park. The RIC research facility will utilize this location for RIC research and development.

Going forward, Rakuten Mobile and Yokosuka Telecom Research Park will continue to accelerate RIC research and development, whilst sharing the knowledge gained from the RIC research facility with the O-RAN ALLIANCE and Japan OTIC, to further advance Open RAN technology.

CT Bureau

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