Operator Etisalat Group ramped up its push into the open RAN space by striking a deal with Rakuten Mobile for the roll out of networks across its Middle East, Africa and Asia regions.

In a statement, Rakuten said the pair signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to build a reference blueprint for mobile broadband networks and open RAN technology based on the Rakuten Communications Platform (RCP).

Under the agreement, Etisalat’s newly-designed networks in the Middle East, Africa and Asia will use Rakuten’s “cloud-native, software-centric and fully virtualised/containerised platform” to provide intelligent and secure operations, the company claimed.

Etisalat is no stranger to open RAN technology, having carried out numerous trials of the kit in the past eighteen months.

Japan’s Rakuten is regarded as the ‘poster child’ of open RAN network technology, having launched the world’s first fully virtualised, cloud-native mobile network.

Last month it secured what appeared to be one of the first publicly announced commercial deals for its RCP platform, with US satellite company Ligado Networks agreeing to use it as the basis for a 5G private network service.

Rakuten Mobile launched its RCP product in June 2020, and later inked a reseller deal with Tech Mahindra. In September 2020, Telefonica expressed interest in using the platform, but did not make a firm commitment.