Rakuten Symphony is helping 1&1 build the world’s most responsive mobile network
In telecoms, network speed has long been king. But that’s changing. Now the industry is focused on another factor: latency.
Instead of asking how fast is your network, customers increasingly want to know: How responsive is your network? That reflects growing demand for real-time apps and services that respond nearly instantaneously to inputs or relevant changes elsewhere.
That was one of the key takeaways from a recent Rakuten Optimism panel discussion on the future of mobile networks in which Rabih Dabboussi, Chief Business Officer of Rakuten Symphony, interviewed Michael Martin, CEO of 1&1 Mobilfunk GmbH in Germany, and Tareq Amin, CEO of Rakuten Symphony and Rakuten Mobile.
In Germany, 1&1 has used the online game Minecraft to test the responsiveness of its new cloud-native 5G network, which plans to have data centers within 10 km of every radio antenna. With this advanced edge computing architecture “we achieved three milliseconds of latency,” Martin said. “That’s close to the theoretical maximum you can get.”
“We really do believe that latency is the new metric that the mobile industry will need to look at,” said Martin. “It’s not about speeds anymore, the customer can’t differentiate if they have 500 Mbps, 700 Mbps or 1 gigabit. That’s nice to have, but not game changing. The game changer lies in real time applications and latency.”
“Without a proper edge architecture… Metaverse will not work, if you cannot deliver on the latency requirement that such an application would require.”Tareq Amin, CEO of Rakuten Symphony and Rakuten Mobile
Most of today’s mobile operators use a more traditional network architecture in which an online app or game would be running on remote servers. As a result, latency can be as high as 30 milliseconds, meaning online games and other apps can lag. “Obviously, that is not the ultra low latency that 5G promises,” Dabboussi noted.
Unlocking the factories of the future and the Metaverse
Rakuten Symphony supports 1&1 in building its new network, which applies the innovative cloud-native architecture and edge computing honed with Rakuten Mobile in Japan. Beyond gaming, Amin noted that low latency connectivity will be crucial for the next generation of highly automated factories and the development of the Metaverse — a series of interconnected 3D virtual environments in which people can interact and transact. “Without a proper edge architecture… Metaverse will not work, if you cannot deliver on the latency requirement that such an application would require,” he said.
In Germany, 1&1’s network will consist of four core data centers, 24 centralized data centers and more than 500 regional data centers, which are each connected to about 25 radio antennas. When its commercial network goes live with 5G Fixed Wireless Access at the end of 2022 followed by commissioning mobile services in the third quarter of 2023, 1&1 will be able to offer “true edge” capabilities that will be able to support a broad range of very demanding use cases, Amin noted. “This is one of the most unique networks, in the sense that it has the largest private edge cloud deployment in Europe,” he explained. “The technology is actually working, validated, tested, trialed.” As well as supporting ultra-low latency, 1&1’s network has delivered throughput speeds of more than 1Gbps in the operator’s trials.
Better security, greater energy efficiency
The panel also discussed the security advantages of the open architecture being deployed by 1&1 and Rakuten Mobile. As the hardware and software are disaggregated, the operator can choose from multiple vendors for each component, selecting the most secure option in each case. “It’s not like open means open interfaces and open to be attacked,” explained Martin. “It’s quite the opposite. It’s much more standardized. …[you have] got much more control on your interface than in a traditional black box network where … you don’t have any insights.”
“Whenever we see we can do something more efficient, we simply apply new software and do it.”Michael Martin, CEO of 1&1 Mobilfunk GmbH in Germany
The new network architecture also promises to be highly efficient, as it can dial up and dial down computing resources and energy usage in line with demand. With the ongoing energy crisis and the need to combat climate change, this efficiency will help to ensure 5G connectivity can be always available and sustainable.
“This open network architecture will be far more efficient than any legacy architecture”Tareq Amin, CEO of Rakuten Symphony and Rakuten Mobile
As 1&1’s network is a cloud native, software-centric system, the operator can routinely upgrade to the most efficient software available. “Whenever we see we can do something more efficient, we simply apply new software and do it,” Martin explained. The fact that the network employs minimal hardware at each radio site also makes it very energy efficient. “No air conditioning on site means there is no need to have any sheltering or containers there,” he added. At the same time, the edge architecture requires less redundancy to meet peaks in demand, as multiple stations can share computing resources, rather than having their own dedicated capacity.
Amin said 1&1 is set to be the first network in the world to have an “energy orchestration” system in which energy usage is continually optimized in line with traffic demands. “This open network architecture will be far more efficient than any legacy architecture,” he concluded.