Japan technology giant Rakuten struck a deal to acquire open RAN equipment supplier Altiostar Networks, at a price reported to value the latter at more than $1 billion.

US-based Altiostar already provides Rakuten’s Japanese mobile unit with open RAN equipment, along with supplying its products on the Rakuten Communications Platform (RCP), a marketplace designed to aid other operators in deploying fully virtualised cloud-native networks.

Rakuten is one of several major industry players to invest in Altiostar’s funding rounds. Other backers include Telefonica and Qualcomm.

The sum paid by Rakuten in the buyout was not disclosed.

Altiostar supplies software for 4G and 5G open virtual RAN, supporting open interfaces and virtualisation of the baseband unit. It has a number of other operator customers including Telefonica, Bharti Airtel and Dish Network.

In its statement on the acquisition, Rakuten noted the companies aimed to “accelerate global deployment of proven cloud-native, open and interoperable mobile infrastructure”.

Altiostar CEO Ashraf Dahod added: “Becoming a Rakuten Group company will allow us to build on our foundation and accelerate our technology development to help operators to innovate, explore new business models and bring affordable broadband to the masses through web-scale mobile networks.”

Following the acquisition, Rakuten plans for Altiostar to remain headquartered in the US with Dahod continuing to lead the business while also taking a role in its RCP unit.

Software focus
Head of GSMA Intelligence Peter Jarich noted Altiostar had “differentiated itself from some other open RAN players” through a “tight focus on software”.

“This aligns well with Rakuten’s RCP plans, giving it more control over yet another network function it can offer to other operators or enterprises.”

“Of course, the fact that Rakuten has invested in, and has been working closely with, Altiostar suggests that it knows well what the vendor can offer and has faith in the offer going forward.”