Rakuten Mobile subscribers just got an exciting free upgrade: 5G.
At an online press conference earlier today, Rakuten CEO Mickey Mikitani announced that the new Rakuten UN-LIMIT V plan would combine 4G and 5G services to offer current Rakuten UN-LIMIT 2.0 subscribers and new subscribers 5G connectivity for no extra cost.
5G services will roll out in key metropolitan areas in Japan from today, available to users with a 5G-compatible device. Mikitani also announced an entirely new 5G-compatible device from Rakuten Mobile, hinting at more to come in the future.
“Less than six months since full-scale commercial launch of the world’s first fully virtualized mobile network, today Rakuten Mobile takes another step forward to transform the mobile industry: We’re offering customers 4G and 5G combined in one simple plan — Rakuten UN-LIMIT V — at the same low price as 4G,” Mikitani commented.
“Our network technology is built to meet the ever-evolving needs of our customers — and with transformational innovation, we are passing on significant savings to our customers. As we move forward to expand 4G and 5G coverage, we aim to reduce the household cost of mobile services. This is also about encouraging consumer spending across other services and goods, contributing to the sustainable health of Japan’s national economy.
Today, we’re one step closer to transforming telecommunications and building a brighter future for everyone.”
Rakuten Mobile: Now 5G-enabled
From its very inception, Rakuten Mobile has made it a priority to do away with complex terms and conditions, offering a single service plan that is simple, intuitive and easy-to-understand for all customers, whether they are in Japan or traveling internationally. The plan — called Rakuten UN-LIMIT 2.0 — launched in April 2020 and offers subscribers unlimited data when connected to the Rakuten Mobile network, and unlimited calls through its communications app Rakuten Link.
This simplified approach presents a stark contrast to how major carriers have traditionally done business in Japan, Rakuten Mobile President Yoshihisa Yamada told journalists. “The mobile plans of other operators are incredibly complicated,” he explained. “You have your family discounts, as well as all sorts of bundles with other services. We took the opposite approach and decided to keep it really simple. And we’re continuing to do that with our 5G plan.”
This simplicity is clearly a plus in the eyes of Rakuten Mobile subscribers. “According to external research, the service is enjoying a satisfaction rate of over 80% so far,” Rakuten CMO Naho Kono elaborated at the press conference. “Customers are particularly happy with the simplicity of our plan, the cost performance, the single fee for unlimited data and the speed it delivers.”
“We wanted to revolutionize smartphone fees in Japan,” Kono said. “That’s what we had in mind when we launched our full-scale mobile carrier service in April.”
Rakuten Mobile is looking to continue this one plan strategy with the 4G- and 5G-combined Rakuten UN-LIMIT V, which will be the only plan available going forward.
Yamada told journalists that the secret behind the low fees lies in Rakuten’s technology. “We are using this revolutionary technology as a base upon which to provide this service at a price point significantly lower than our competitors,” he said. “I think if we continue this strategy, we will win the support of users.”
As of September 30, 5G service will be available in parts of Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama, Hokkaido, Osaka and Hyogo Prefectures. Rakuten Mobile is looking to expand the service area going forward.
A big screen for a big 5G experience: Introducing the Rakuten BIG
Rakuten Mobile also announced the Rakuten BIG, a new 5G-compatible smartphone available for purchase from today.
Equipped with a supersized 6.9-inch OLED display, this new device is the world’s first Mobile FeliCa-equipped smartphone with a front camera embedded in the display. The smartphone is equipped with an eSIM, and like other Rakuten Mobile smartphones, is SIM lock free. With the Rakuten BIG, customers will be able to use Rakuten Mobile’s 5G service in 5G service areas.
BIG also features a 4-lens AI-enabled camera system, made up of a wide-angle camera, an ultra-wide-angle camera, a macro camera and a depth sensing camera that helps capture stunning photographs with the perfect bokeh. With a maximum resolution of approximately 64 megapixels, the Rakuten BIG’s AI camera and wide range of photography modes provide the user with the toolset they need to take exactly the kind of photos they want.
The new smartphone from Rakuten Mobile also includes an in-display fingerprint sensor, an IP68 rating for water and dust resistance, and an approximately 4,000mAh large-capacity battery, making it ideally suited for every aspect of daily life.
Rakuten Mobile’s fully virtualized 5G mobile network
Rakuten Mobile’s 4G network is the world’s first fully virtualized cloud-native mobile network. For its 5G network, all functions, excluding the core, such as the virtualized OpenRAN, cloud and OSS, are run on the Rakuten Communications Platform (RCP), a telco platform that is based on containers for more flexible and stable development and utilizes equipment and software from trusted partners.
“After our successful 4G launch in April 2020, I’m very proud to launch our 5G network today. The learnings from launching 4G on the world’s first fully virtualized, cloud-native mobile network enabled us to further enhance our underlying stack,” commented Rakuten Mobile CTO Tareq Amin.
“The open and virtualized RAN in our 5G network is now fully containerized. This innovation brings cloud-stack from theory to practice. We have also managed to deploy the world’s first massive MIMO radio units in mmWave (28Ghz) and Sub-6Ghz (3.7Ghz), and all the 5G RAN workloads are running on the same containerized software stack for Open and Virtualized RAN. In fact, our 5G cloud stack runs on 2 types of hardware SKUs only.
The future will bring the many more innovations my team is working on to further prove that cloud-native, open telco networks are not a dream anymore, they are a compelling alternative to legacy networks.”
For more details on Rakuten UN-LIMIT V and Rakuten’s 5G service offerings, please see today’s press release and virtual press conference.