1&1’s mobile network launch is a milestone for telecom – and a major step forward in Rakuten’s mission to transform the industry

Left to right: Mickey Mikitani (Rakuten Group, Chairman and CEO), Daniela Schmitt (Minister for Economic Affairs, Transport, Agriculture and Viticulture of the State of Rhineland-Palatinate), Dr. Volker Wissing (Federal Minister for Digital Affairs and Transport), Ralph Dommermuth (1&1 AG, CEO)

By Mickey Mikitani, Chairman and CEO, Rakuten Group

Europe’s most modern mobile network is now fully functional. The commercial service launch for 1&1’s mobile network in Germany represents a watershed moment for the telecommunications industry and should open the world’s eyes to what is possible in mobile. 1&1 is the first cloud-native mobile network operator in Europe built on Open RAN standards. Its network architecture is unlike anything else on the continent, and it is significant that consumers in Germany, Europe’s largest economy and a nation that is relentlessly committed to the highest standards of data privacy and security, now have access to 1&1’s services.

This is where the future of telecom lies – a future where networks are automated, cloud-native and built on open interfaces. Today’s launch cements 1&1’s status as a pioneer in German mobile communications and globally in telecom.

Europe’s most modern network

When Rakuten partnered with 1&1 in 2021 to build Europe’s first Open RAN mobile network, both organizations committed to a vision of how mobile networks should be deployed.

As the continental first mover into Open RAN, 1&1 can now receive all the benefits of commercial off-the-shelf hardware, cloud-native software, and automated operations. Unlike traditional networks, 1&1’s Open RAN network functions no longer run on hardware attached to the radio at the base stations but are controlled via software in the cloud. 1&1 has deployed this in a nationwide web of decentralized edge data centers. With the help of standardized interfaces, 1&1 is able to work flexibly with the safest and best manufacturers.

At Rakuten, we are no stranger to the ways that Open RAN can change mobile networks. Unlike the industry’s legacy model, telcos who deploy Open RAN have greater control over their networks, and, more importantly, lower cost of ownership. 1&1’s operating costs will be significantly lower over time compared to their domestic rivals.

In Japan, we have significantly reduced mobile service costs for customers and soon 1&1’s competitive mobile services will force the telecom industry in Germany to change as well.

Better technology, better outcomes

1&1’s network relies on new technology – it is cloud-native with everything running as microservices in the cloud orchestrated by Kubernetes, built on open interfaces and independent of dominant network suppliers. Rakuten’s innovative approach to network deployment is allowing 1&1 to tackle challenges that really matter to customers. 1&1’s edge architecture enables low latency connectivity – a necessity for the next generation of gaming and AI-intensive applications.

1&1 is also able to take advantage of easily deployed network software upgrades without impacting network services. This approach makes it easy to deploy new and innovative mobile services more frequently for customers in Germany.

Cloud, software and automation have pushed Big Tech into a different stratosphere but telecom has been left in its wake. Now this new architecture and deployment model is effectively changing an industry that has been slow to adapt.

Rakuten Chairman and CEO Mickey Mikitani on stage at an event celebrating the launch of mobile services for 1&1's new network at an event in Montabaur, Germany.
Rakuten Chairman and CEO Mickey Mikitani on stage at an event celebrating the launch of mobile services for 1&1’s new network at an event in Montabaur, Germany.

The future of telecom

I am grateful for the trust that 1&1’s leadership has placed in Rakuten. It has been a privilege to work with an organization whose values are closely aligned with so many that we ourselves hold dear – openness, innovation, continuous improvement. And perhaps most importantly, a commitment to disrupting the status quo.

We have overcome many challenges in order to reach this point, and their commitment to the cause has never wavered. They must be commended for this – the brave and the bold define how the future is shaped.

I would like to personally thank Ralph Dommermuth, CEO of 1&1 AG, and Michael Martin, CEO of 1&1 Mobilfunk, two visionary technology leaders and business partners with whom I am delighted to have worked alongside.

Our two organizations have made historic strides together, and I am incredibly excited for what our partnership will bring in the future. We look forward to continuing to support 1&1 in their journey to realize the benefits of Open RAN as well as a cloud-native mobile network.

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