Rakuten announced plans to invest in US-based virtualised RAN (vRAN) vendor Altiostar, as the internet giant pressed-on with plans to launch a mobile network using vRAN in Japan in October.

The investment in Altiostar, which is subject to clearance from US authorities, is part of Rakuten’s drive towards rolling-out what it describes as industry first network architecture.

Rakuten CTO Tareq Amin said the company would work closely with its new partner to take a “leadership role in driving RAN virtualisation and to bring disruptive innovation to the mobile industry.” It is also engaging with a number of other companies to help “craft solutions” necessary to meet its aim.

In a statement, Altiostar added it would use the new funding to expand its 4G and 5G vRAN solutions to “accelerate the industry paradigm shift to web-scale cloud-native mobile networks.” It noted new mobile operator business models would help bring affordable broadband to the masses.

As part of the deal, Amin and Rakuten mobile network president Yoshihisa Yamada will join Altiostar’s board.

The transaction is subject to clearance by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. Full terms of the deal, including the size of the investment, were undisclosed.

Should the deal be cleared, Rakuten would join existing investors Qualcomm, Cisco, Tech Mahindra and a number of VC funds in backing the vRAN platform provider.

Rakuten, which already offers an MVNO in Japan, received clearance from authorities in April 2018 to become the country’s fourth network operator.