Japan-based Rakuten Mobile opened its virtualised RAN (vRAN) verification platform at a lab in Tokyo to third parties and will also provide remote access to the testing environment at two local universities.

In a statement, the operator explained that giving partner companies remote access to its Open Innovation Lab testing functions can accelerate and simplify development of fully virtualised, cloud-native networks. Rakuten Mobile noted it also can build technology verification capabilities at partners’ facilities.

In addition to connecting the vRAN testing platform with the Tokyo Institute of Technology and the University of Tokyo Graduate School of Engineering Nakao Laboratory, the company is conducting research with the institutes as part of the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology’s Beyond 5G R&D Promotion Project.

As part of that push, Rakuten Mobile’s testing lab aims to support trials to optimise network design and operation through the vRAN intelligent controller, the company stated.

Marc Einstein, chief analyst at Japan-based research company ITR, told Mobile World Live he believes Rakuten Mobile realises only the largest operators in the world have the engineering and R&D capabilities in-house to make open RAN a reality.

“Given there are more vendors involved in an O-RAN deployment, testing becomes considerably more important and complicated.”

He added that offering remote testing is an important feature, as travel remains difficult if not impossible in many parts of the world.

The verification platform is located at its Cloud Innovation Lab which was set up in 2019.

The operator’s cloud unit Rakuten Symphony last month unveiled plans to set up an innovation lab in Bengaluru in early 2023.