Japan operator Rakuten Mobile started radio frequency tests on newly allocated spectrum in the 700MHz band, with plans to gradually deploy service on the band using its existing network of base stations, starting with high-traffic urban areas.

In a statement, the operator noted it is preparing to launch operations on the 700MHz band, adding it will use its expertise gained deploying Japan’s first fully virtualised cloud-native mobile network based on open RAN standards in the 1.7GHz band. Once radio frequency testing is completed, the company aims for the early roll out of commercial service using the band.

Marc Einstein, chief analyst at research company ITR, told Mobile World Live the lower-band spectrum delivers better signal quality and covers a larger area with less infrastructure, enabling the operator to lower capex. In addition, it offers better indoor penetration.

He added that’s why the band in Japan is referred to as the platinum band.

The loss-making operator said in November 2023 it would improve coverage and optimise its network by launching service on the 700MHz band early in 2024. A month earlier, Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications approved the operator’s proposal to expand mobile services into the band using more than 10,500 base stations, currently running on 1.7GHz spectrum.

Its parent Rakuten Group recorded a net loss of JPY339.4 billion ($2.2 billion) in 2023, its second-largest annual loss, following heavy investment into its mobile unit since 2020.