Rakuten Mobile, soon to become Japan’s fourth major operator, selected Nokia to build out its nationwide mobile backhaul network, adding to the vendor’s work on its 4G RAN and virtualised core.

In a statement, Nokia said the network will be built on an optical infrastructure covering the country’s 47 prefectures, supporting backhaul and data centre interconnect applications. Its technology will be used in both the longhaul and metro optical networks, creating a photonic mesh, which it claims is the first of its kind for a mobile backhaul network.

Tareq Amin, Rakuten Mobile CTO, said Nokia’s backhaul technologies will enable it to achieve “unprecedented levels of integration and performance building the mobile network for 4G and 5G”.

Previously, Amin applauded Nokia for opening the remote radio head to enable its end-to-end, fully virtualised architecture. Nokia is deploying part of its RAN, connecting remote radio heads to its cloud RAN software.

Last month, the companies announced they will build an automated operations environment for 5G, with Nokia running the virtualised core network as part of a managed services deal.

In June 2019, Rakuten Mobile selected NEC as a 5G equipment provider.