Today marks another milestone in the roll-out of the world’s first end-to-end fully virtualized cloud-native mobile network. At an event commemorating the grand opening of a new flagship store in downtown Tokyo, Rakuten Mobile announced the expansion of its Free Supporter Program to up to an additional 20,000 participants.
Already offering voice and data services free of charge to approximately 5,000 subscribers since launching in October 2019, customer feedback received through the Free Supporter Program has allowed Rakuten Mobile to make numerous improvements to its service, including the expansion of the mobile network service area.
Steady progress is also being made on the buildout of 4G base stations, with more than 3,000 now on air as of January 2020. The total number is set to exceed the March 2020 target approved by the Ministry for Internal Affairs and Communications.
Rakuten Mobile is on track to launch full commercial services in April this year. But what does the world’s first end-to-end fully virtualized cloud-native network mean for the market? “Our tech is important, of course, but what really matters is what this means for our customers,” shared Rakuten Mobile President Yoshihisa Yamada at the event earlier today. “Our cloud-native network architecture brings about a substantial reduction of capital investment and operation costs. It also allows for the flexible deployment of new services, as we’re not dependent on dedicated hardware. And finally, it allows for the simple, fast and low-cost implementation of 5G, since this is essentially a software upgrade for us. All this leads to a dramatic reduction in operation costs — and we want to pass these savings on to our customers.”
See here for more about who can apply for the second wave of the Free Supporters Program.
Introducing “Rakuten Link”
The second wave of the Free Supporter Program includes the launch of a beta version of the new original dialing app “Rakuten Link” for calling, texting and messaging.
Rakuten Link is a dialing app developed by Rakuten Mobile based on international RCS (Rich Communication Services) standards. Unlike other messaging apps which require users to have the app installed to be able to communicate with each other, Rakuten Link allows users to make domestic and international calls to both mobile phones and fixed lines, as well as send texts and messages to mobile phones in Japan and overseas.
New flagship store centers on creating a new in-store customer experience
To enrich the in-store customer experience, Rakuten Mobile has both revamped its store design for the launch of the new mobile network service and introduced a number of new initiatives to improve the contract process. The first store to incorporate the new design and services opened today in Ebisu, and plans are underway to introduce these new features in other stores.
The Rakuten Mobile Ebisu Store features a simple, clean design based on the new magenta brand color, with a spacious layout that allows customers to browse the store easily and complete contracts on the spot in-store. Customers who have already decided on their device and plan and made their application online have the option to easily pick up their device, significantly reducing in-store time for completion of the contract process.
The Rakuten Mini has arrived!
Rakuten’s first original device, the Rakuten Mini will be available for purchase by participants in the Free Supporter Program at six Rakuten Mobile stores starting today. This sleek new mobile device will initially be available in “Night Black” and “Cool White” models, to be followed by the “Crimson Red” model in the future.
The Rakuten Mini is the world’s smallest and lightest FeliCa-equipped smartphone, and Rakuten Mobile’s first original device available with an eSIM. The Rakuten Mini features a variety of functions suitable for everyday use, such as facial recognition, in a small form that fits in the palm of your hand and a UI designed for one-handed use.
As with other devices launched since October 2019, the Rakuten Mini is SIM lock free and eSIM-compatible. By leading the adoption of SIM lock free devices and eSIM, Rakuten Mobile aims to foster an environment where customers can freely choose their communications services and devices based on individual needs.