Rakuten Group forged a deal to design, build and operate an open RAN network for Germany-based 1&1 as it moves to become the nation’s fourth mobile operator.

In a statement, Rakuten claimed it will be Europe’s first fully virtualised mobile network based on open RAN technology. It will construct the active network equipment and be responsible for overall network performance.

Rakuten will also provide access to its virtualised, cloud-native mobile communications platform.

Nikkei Asia estimated the value of the ten-year deal at JPY250 billion ($2.3 billion) to JPY300 billion.

Ralph Dommermuth, CEO of 1&1, said complete virtualisation and use of standard hardware offered flexibility, making it “a manufacturer-independent innovation driver in the German and European mobile market”.

The operator acquired 5G spectrum in 2019 and currently offers MVNO services to some 10 million customers.

Rakuten chairman and CEO Mickey Mikitani said delivering the Rakuten Communications Platform (RCP) to 1&1 would see the companies jointly create a next-generation network that will set new standards for future mobile communications in Germany and across Europe”.

Subsidiary Rakuten Mobile established the RCP in 2020.