New Japanese market entrant Rakuten Mobile, a subsidiary of e-commerce giant Rakuten, expects to cover all the country’s population with its mobile service in 2021.
During an earnings call, Chairman and CEO Mickey Mikitani said that the company previously targeted full coverage in Japan by 2028, but added that it was possible to accelerate this goal by seven years. Rakuten Mobile now aims to have 70% population coverage by end-March 2021 and full coverage by summer 2021.
Rakuten Mobile posted an operating loss of JPY50.6 billion ($477.2 million) in the second quarter of the year from JPY12.24 billion in the comparable 2019 period, on higher capex and depreciation costs. Revenue increased 61% year-on-year to JPY43.65 billion.
Mikitani also said that Rakuten Mobile had already reached 1 million mobile subscribers.
Rakuten Mobile previously said that the 5G service originally planned for June 2020 was expected to be delayed by approximately three months due to the impact of the pandemic on part of the company’s global supply chain.
Mikitani said that this revised timetable to launch 5G service in fall 2020 remains unchanged.
Rakuten launched mobile services in April, relying on an end-to-end fully virtualized, cloud-native mobile network, which will allow the company to avoid deploying large amounts of hardware. The company highlighted that this virtualized network is cheaper to deploy and can be upgraded quickly. The company initially launched a single unlimited plan with free service over the first 12 months for 3 million customers. The company said that after the first year, the package will have a monthly cost of JPY2,980 ($27.80).
Mikitani said the firm had already activated a total of 5,739 radio stations in the country as of the end of June, while Rakuten Mobile had deployed over 10,000 base stations. “We are waiting to connect all these base stations at the moment,” the executive said.
In June, Rakuten Mobile and NEC Corporation announced that the two companies have reached an agreement to jointly develop the containerized standalone (SA) 5G core network (5GC) to be used in Rakuten Mobile’s fully virtualized cloud native 5G network.
Under the terms of the agreement, Rakuten Mobile and NEC will jointly develop the containerized SA 5G mobile core to be made available on the Rakuten Communications Platform (RCP).
The two companies will collaborate to build a Japan-made 5GC, based on the 5GC software source code developed by NEC. Following the launch of its non-standalone (NSA) 5G service in 2020, Rakuten Mobile aims to launch its SA 5G service in Japan in 2021.