Rakuten Mobile, which plans to launch a network in Japan in October, selected NEC as its 5G equipment provider, as it gears up to roll out the next generation technology in June 2020.

Through a new partnership, the companies will jointly develop a 3.7GHz massive MIMO 5G antenna radio unit, which will be manufactured by NEC in Japan, Rakuten Mobile said in a statement.

Based on plans sent to the government, Rakuten Mobile’s cost of deploying a 5G base station will be JPY8.2 million ($75,798), which is 10 per cent to 20 per cent of the cost for market leader NTT Docomo, Nikkei Asian Review reported.

Rakuten Mobile aims to install 16,000 5G base stations in five years. While it is using Nokia kit for its 4G network, it opted for a domestic supplier for the next generation following a government ban on government agencies using Chinese equipment.

In December 2018, the country’s major mobile operators announced they don’t plan to deploy 5G gear from Huawei and ZTE.

Virtualised RAN
In February Rakuten Mobile said it will deploy a virtualised RAN (vRAN) architecture and announced plans to invest in US-based vRAN vendor Altiostar. As part of the new agreement with NEC, the operator said it aims to build the world’s first 5G open vRAN architecture.

Tareq Amin, Rakuten Mobile CTO, said: “NEC’s technology and expertise will allow us to not only cost-effectively create a highly secure, high-quality 5G network, but by designing and producing the antennas in the local market, we look forward to contributing to the development of the Japanese telecommunications industry and economy.”