Rakuten Mobile stepped up its network investment in Q3 as it doubled base station installations to 1,500 a month, with capex expected to remain inflated for the next three quarters.
In a briefing, CTO Tareq Amin (pictured) said the company aims to expand 4G network coverage to 96 per cent of Japan’s population by June or July 2021.
He noted customers’ data use of 15GB a month is triple the average in Japan. And on its 5G network, consumption is as much as 20GB to 30GB a day.
“We would love to see our customers use 30GB a day. That’s how much capacity we have in our underlying dark fibre infrastructure.”
He insisted he’s not concerned about capacity and is optimistic it can acquire the necessary spectrum in future.
He complained radio equipment is “really, really expensive”, accounting for 60 per cent to 70 per cent of total network capex, and argued the current approach of completely tying hardware and software together isn’t a sustainable model.
“We did not think that we could compete in Japan if we didn’t change the fundamental cost structure of the mobile network,” which is why it turned to open networks and is targeting radio savings of 60 per cent.
He explained it focused on rooftop installations during the first phase of its RAN rollout, but found using 15 metre to 20 metre concrete poles was significantly cheaper. These are now used in 65 per cent of its new installations, and because work on the foundations is simpler, it can deploy a site in a day.
Amin said it received more than 1.6 million applications to subscribe to its service since April.
Earlier the operator reported an operating loss of JPY57.9 billion ($549.7 million) in Q3, up from a loss of JPY14.55 billion in the same period of 2019. Revenue increased 48 per cent to JPY45.7 billion.
On a group level, Rakuten’s net loss fell to JPY43.99 billion from JPY114 billion and revenue increased 13.2 per cent to JPY361.4 billion.Subscribe to our daily newsletter Back