Rakuten Group CEO Mickey Mikitani and Rakuten Symphony CEO Tareq Amin on stage at the Rakuten Symphony Telco Transformation Lab at Mobile World Congress 2022 in Barcelona.
The mobile industry officially returned to Fira Barcelona Gran Via for MWC Barcelona 2022 last week. The annual event – the world’s largest mobile exhibition – was held this year from February 28 to March 3, bringing together mobile operators, vendors and visitors from around the world to share the latest in technology and services.
MWC Barcelona 2022 marked the first year of attendance for Rakuten Symphony at the annual event as Rakuten’s visionary telco platform business was officially launched in August 2021. Over four days of panels, live demonstrations and meetings with partners and customers, Rakuten Symphony continued to make headlines with announcements related to Robin.io, Cisco, Nokia, MTN and others.
Transformation of the Telco Industry: Live demo and event
On March 1, Rakuten Symphony hosted its own Telco Transformation Lab: a series of talks on the future of the telco industry along with the first-ever live demonstration of its Symworld platform to the MWC audience at large.
“Our mission is to disrupt, and to disrupt, we have to do things a bit differently.”Mickey Mikitani, Chairman & CEO, Rakuten Group
The full capacity event featured Rakuten Group Chairman & CEO Mickey Mikitani, Rakuten Symphony CEO Tareq Amin, and a host of other leaders, who shared their vision to transform the telecom industry and demonstrated the transformative software-based platform powering the world’s most advanced mobile network.
“This is an exciting moment, not just for Rakuten Symphony but for the mobile industry as a whole, as we evolve networks to drive connectivity and cost economics the world has not previously seen.”Tareq Amin, CEO, Rakuten Symphony
“Our mission is to disrupt,” explained Mikitani, setting the tone for the Symworld demo to come, “and to disrupt, we have to do things a bit differently.”
“This is an exciting moment,” said Amin, “not just for Rakuten Symphony but for the mobile industry as a whole, as we evolve networks to drive connectivity and cost economics the world has not previously seen.”
Then came the big moment, as Anshul Bhatt, head of intelligent operations production strategy and technical sales for Rakuten Symphony, took to the stage to demonstrate the actual software powering the Rakuten Mobile network in Japan today – complete with a look at how the live network is managed.
“We are automating the full mobile services lifecycle, creating the building blocks that will eventually deliver autonomous networks,” shared Bhatt.
A full report on the event is also available here.
New partnerships: Robin.io, Ajit Pai
On February 28, Rakuten Symphony announced plans to acquire leading cloud technology company Robin.io. The US-based startup offers a comprehensive portfolio of products for cloud-native deployment, lifecycle management and orchestration. Rakuten and Robin.io have been collaborating for over two years, with Rakuten Mobile leveraging Robin.io’s products in the deployment of its world-first fully virtualized cloud native mobile network*1.
In the evening, Rakuten and Robin.io held a reception in the venue, with Mikitani, Amin and Robin.io CEO Partha Seetala taking the floor to share their excitement. Check out the report on the event to find out more.
“Ajit (Pai) brings a track record for navigating and guiding challenging industry developments and discourse, with keen recognition of the unique and imminent opportunities that exist to help mobile network operators set a new course for innovation.”Tareq Amin
On March 2, Rakuten Symphony announced that former Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai would join its newly-formed board of directors from April 1, 2022, as an outside director alongside Amin and Mikitani.
Pai served for almost a decade at the FCC. Under his leadership the organization took transformative steps to promote innovation and investment in next-generation wireless networks and services.
“Ajit (Pai) brings a track record for navigating and guiding challenging industry developments and discourse, with keen recognition of the unique and imminent opportunities that exist to help mobile network operators set a new course for innovation,” commented Amin.
New collaborations: AT&T, MTN, Cisco, Nokia
On February 28, Rakuten Symphony and US operator AT&T announced a collaboration agreement which will see the two companies work together to enhance solutions within the Symworld platform to accelerate network planning and deployment in both greenfield and brownfield environments.
Gordon Mansfield, VP Mobility Access & Architecture at AT&T took to the stage with Amin at the Rakuten Symphony Telco Transformation Lab to share his thoughts on the collaboration with Rakuten Symphony.
On the same day, Rakuten Symphony and Cisco announced the signing of an MoU to accelerate the delivery for cloud-native, virtualized 4G/5G mobile networks based on Open RAN technology.
“We believe our collaboration with Cisco will bring something quite unique in the industry solving the industry’s current challenges when it comes to deploying new generations of networks.”Tareq Amin
Cisco is another long-term partner of Rakuten, with Rakuten Mobile leveraging Cisco products in its network. Building upon the partnership, Rakuten Symphony and Cisco are combining strengths to offer solutions which will allow mobile operators to compete more effectively in the cloud era. The solutions will include Cisco’s leading mobile, routing, switching, and automation portfolios, along with Rakuten Symphony’s Open RAN orchestration and the full suite of Rakuten Symphony’s Symworld applications.
“We believe our collaboration with Cisco will bring something quite unique in the industry solving the industry’s current challenges when it comes to deploying new generations of networks,” said Amin. “Using open interfaces, virtualization, cloud, and automation from Rakuten Symphony along with Cisco’s well established network footprint and offering will give telcos an opportunity to build and operate their networks in significantly better ways.”
On March 1, Rakuten Symphony, Rakuten Mobile and Nokia announced that Nokia’s cloud-native Core software will be included on Rakuten Symphony’s Symworld marketplace. The agreement between the two companies will also see Nokia named as the sole vendor for specific mobile core products.
The Symworld marketplace was created to simplify the process of telecom application onboarding. The platform digitalizes all telecom processes for planning, deploying, securing, and monitoring the software in live telecom networks; and makes applications one click away from deployment.
Commenting on the agreement, Amin said, “We have a long and successful relationship with Nokia in Rakuten Mobile and together in Japan we have radically accelerated change in the telecom industry. We want to do more and we are extremely happy to partner with Nokia now to drive the marketplace way of working in the live network with Nokia’s world class cloud-native core products.”
On March 3, Rakuten Symphony and South African mobile network operator MTN announced an MoU to carry out 4G and 5G Open RAN trials in South Africa, Nigeria and Liberia.
The trials, which will start in 2022, will demonstrate RCP Open RAN technology with advanced automation and autonomous network capabilities with one of Africa’s top brownfield operators.
Speaking about the trials, Rakuten Symphony CRO Rabih Dabboussi commented, “This PoC will demonstrate how one of the world’s top-tier brownfield mobile operators can utilize Rakuten Symphony’s network automation and orchestration solutions for cost-effective network transformation and timely deployment of next-generation network services to their customers across Africa.”
Taking center stage: Edge, security and 5G
Rakuten Symphony executives Rabih Dabboussi and Azita Arvani, General Manager, Rakuten Symphony Americas, were featured speakers on several key panel discussions during the four-day event.
“The debate about network security comes from fear of the unknown. But we must embrace different architectures and take calculated measures to shrink attack surfaces and apply best of breed technologies to secure telco clouds and radio interfaces.”Rabih Dabboussi, Chief Revenue Officer, Rakuten Symphony
MWC Barcelona 2022 opened with a topic on many minds: Open RAN. In a panel “OpenRAN: A Vision of 5G & the Future of 6G,” Arvani laid out Rakuten Symphony’s vision for what Open RAN and software-defined network architectures will bring the telco industry now with 5G and in the future with 6G.
Shortly thereafter, Dabboussi joined an exclusive broadcast session called, “5G Security: Connecting us to a Secure Future.” In this session, Dabboussi went head-to-head with security experts, debating the security of mobile networks based on Open RAN technology, at one moment declaring, “The debate about network security comes from fear of the unknown. But we must embrace different architectures and take calculated measures to shrink attack surfaces and apply best of breed technologies to secure telco clouds and radio interfaces.”
To close out the event in Barcelona, Arvani returned to the stage to delve into enabling technologies in a panel discussion on “Cloud & Edge: A New Approach to Innovation.” Arvani highlighted the advantages of Rakuten Mobile’s network in Japan, built with an emphasis on edge computing, and addressed the challenges and benefits of edge in a telco environment. While panelists highlighted entertainment apps as a driver for edge in telco, Arvani declared the edge is critical to the network itself, suggesting “One of the biggest edge applications [in Rakuten Mobile’s network] is actually the RAN [radio access network] itself. Once that’s in place you create edges where additional applications can be deployed.”
*1 For a large scale commercial mobile network (as of October 1, 2019). Research: Stella Associa