Conquering cancer and transforming wireless networks are Rakuten’s most ambitious projects, Chairman and CEO Mickey Mikitani told the World Government Summit in Dubai.
Mikitani shared that the two initiatives represented his “moonshots” on day three of the international conference, which also played host to Tesla, SpaceX and Twitter CEO Elon Musk and hedge fund veteran Ray Dalio.
“Conquering” cancer and wireless network transformation
Mikitani underlined the urgent need for wireless networks to modernize in an age where the world’s major industries are underpinned by digital technologies and cloud computing. He said that the transformation of mobile networks is essential if telecommunications is to keep pace with other, more digitalized sectors.
He also stressed his desire to “conquer” cancer through Rakuten Medical, the biotech company developing drugs and devices to treat the disease through its Alluminox™ technology platform, which has been shown to induce rapid and selective cell killing in pre-clinical studies.
“Every IT platform has been transformed and is becoming more software-oriented and more cloud-oriented. But the one major sector which has not gone through this transformation is telecom and wireless. One of Rakuten’s most important projects is transforming wireless connectivity.”Mickey Mikitani, Rakuten Group Chairman and CEO
Mikitani went on to stress that the telecoms industry risks being dominated by an elite minority if it refuses to change.
“I have two big moonshot projects,” Mikitani said. “One is transforming wireless connectivity. Wireless networks have been and still are dominated by legacy hardware.
“Every IT platform has been transformed and is becoming more software-oriented and more cloud-oriented. But the one major sector which has not gone through this transformation is telecom and wireless. One of Rakuten’s most important projects is transforming wireless connectivity. We have to re-optimize wireless networks; the future of wireless networks is going to be virtualized – they will work in the same way as the internet and software work together.
“Why is that? The industry is overpriced and dominated by four or five players, and there’s no incentive to move forward. Look at the internet – everything is moving to the cloud. But that is not happening in mobile.”
Trailblazers of transformation
Mikitani also warned against the dangers of closed, “black box’’ telecom networks, reminding the audience that open standards were desperately needed in order to retain network integrity.
“Everybody thought this was a joke five years ago, when I would talk with CEOs and big-ticket companies. But we are the trailblazers of transformation.”
Drawing on his experience as Founder and CEO of Rakuten Group, Mikitani emphasized that while wholesale industrial change can initially seem risible to a broader audience, Rakuten is determined to push through technologies and practices that are changing mobile connectivity for the better.
“Twenty-five years ago, many people told me that you couldn’t do banking services on a Unix server, and that they had to run on mainframes. Now, Rakuten has the largest online bank in Japan in terms of account numbers, with over 13 million accounts.
“We took on this challenge four years ago, and because of Rakuten, industries are now starting to talk about open radio access networks (Open RAN). Everybody thought this was a joke five years ago, when I would talk with CEOs and big-ticket companies. But we are the trailblazers of transformation.”