Photo: Chairman and CEO of Cisco Chuck Robbins on stage at Cisco Live 2019 in San Diego

For small business owners dreaming of going global, Rakuten’s new mobile network will be a game changer. That was one of the messages delivered by Chuck Robbins during his keynote presentation at Cisco Live – the annual event at which one of the world’s leading technology companies gives its customers and partners a glimpse of its future plans.

In a segment highlighting the collaboration between Rakuten and Cisco, the Chairman and CEO of Cisco showed a video featuring Namiki Ishiyama, a sixth generation tea farmer in Japan who sells her products through Rakuten’s marketplace. The video noted that Rakuten’s 5G-ready network will be able to help Namiki Ishiyama fulfill her dream of selling tea around the world. In the future, the mobile connectivity covering the tea plantation will be fast and responsive enough to translate phone calls in real-time, making it easy for Namiki Ishiyama to converse with overseas customers. For the tea farm, established in 1871, Rakuten’s new network promises to be a bridge between tradition and transformation.

Working with Cisco and other partners, Rakuten plans to launch the world’s first end-to-end cloud-native mobile network in October 2019, bringing low cost, high performance connectivity to people across Japan. “My belief is this platform is going to change everything,” Tareq Amin, CTO of Rakuten Mobile noted in the keynote video, before adding its “going to change the ecosystem of telecommunication in this country and across the world.”

For Rakuten, the time is right

In his keynote, Robbins outlined how conventional communications and connectivity hardware are being displaced by cloud-based software. But for most of Cisco’s customers that shift will be a gradual process involving the replacement of legacy equipment. But “we have one customer, as we think about a lot of the technologies, like virtualization and cloud, and potentially 5G down the road, there is one customer we have been working with who made the decision with us that the time was right,” the CEO said, before introducing the video showcasing Rakuten’s work in Japan.

Robbins also encouraged delegates to visit the customer showcase section of the exhibition floor to see, up close, what Rakuten has built. The Cisco Customer Experience booth featured a virtual reality (VR) game experience that took attendees through Rakuten’s journey of building the world’s first, fully virtualized mobile network. The VR game involved three missions in which the players design the cloud-native network, build the network and then run the network using advanced software.

The Cisco Customer Experience booth featured a virtual reality (VR) game experience that took attendees through Rakuten’s journey of building the world’s first, fully virtualized mobile network.
The Cisco Customer Experience booth featured a virtual reality (VR) game experience that took attendees through Rakuten’s journey of building the world’s first fully virtualized mobile network.

Later in the same keynote, Scott Harrell, GM of the Enterprise Networking Business of Cisco, further underlined the significance of new wireless technologies for businesses: “Your wireless network is going to be able to support things that it never could before: things like AR (augmented reality) and VR,” he said.  “More machines can be put on the wireless network and not just the wired network.”  Harrell also stressed that 5G mobile networks and Wi-Fi 6, the latest Wi-Fi standard, will work together to meet people’s connectivity needs. “Its going to be a world where both are critical,” he noted: “Where you are going to use 5G outdoors and you are going to use Wi-Fi 6 indoors.”

“The world just changed”

In a keynote address the following day, Chuck Robbins introduced a second video telling the inside story of how Rakuten and Cisco built the new mobile network in “record time.” Reconstructing conversations between Tareq Amin and Prakash has a accountDistinguished Engineer at Cisco, Prakash Suthar, the video described the plan to build an end-to-end cloud native network as “an ambitious idea, an unprecedented idea,” adding: “Industry experts called it impossible, but that didn’t stop them, that just made them hungry.”

After months of teamwork, Rakuten and Cisco has built a network that can bring a new radio site online in just 10 minutes, via automation, compared with the three weeks required in a conventional mobile network.  That kind of flexibility promises to transform the economics of mobile connectivity and enable Rakuten’s customers to benefit from low cost 4G and 5G services.

Featuring footage of Rakuten founder and CEO Mickey Mikitani making the first phone call on Rakuten’s network, the video concluded by saying: “The world just changed.”