Rakuten’s network uses Intel Xeon processors and Intel FPGAs for acceleration

Intel has confirmed that it will provide technology to Japanese e-commerce and internet services provider Rakuten for a new cloud-native network.

Intel said in a statement that the new network will be fully virtualized from radio access network (RAN) to core and will adopt an innovative 5G systems architecture from its launch.

“Rakuten … has now built a mobile network from the ground up that runs on Intel Xeon Scalable processors and uses Intel FPGAs for acceleration. This end-to-end cloud-native, automated network is innovative in its approach, and will allow Rakuten to rapidly scale mobile services on an agile, software-defined network,” said Sandra Rivera, Intel senior vice president, Network Platforms Group, in a statement.

Intel highlighted that this technology will also allow Rakuten to scale outside Japan.

Initial end-to-end real-world tests of the new fully-virtualized network were conducted earlier this month in suburban Tokyo. A roving test successfully used the data network to conduct voice and video calls over the Rakuten Viber mobile messaging platform, the company said.

“We believe this full end-to-end virtualized network will help us to shift away from reliance on dedicated hardware and legacy infrastructure,” said Tareq Amin, CTO at Rakuten Mobile Network. “We will be able to reach new cloud-like operational efficiency, and that passes on cost-savings to our customers as well.”

The Rakuten network uses a virtualized radio access network running on Intel Xeon processor-based servers from Quanta, support radio access technology from Altiostar and core network software from Cisco.

Rakuten is also adopting multi-access edge computing (MEC) with Intel to extend its network, the U.S. chipmaker said.

Earlier this week, Rakuten announced plans to invest in U.S.-based virtualized Radio Access Network (vRAN) vendor Altiostar. Rakuten said that the investment in Altiostar is still subject to regulatory approval by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. Rakuten did not provide further details about the terms of the deal, including the size of the investment.

Altiostar will utilize the financing to expand its vRAN solutions for 4G and 5G  in order to “accelerate the industry paradigm shift to web-scale cloud-native mobile networks,” the company said.

Rakuten Mobile Network received approval for its Special Base Station Deployment Plan in April 2018 and aims to launch its first services as a mobile network operator in October 2019. The Japanese company aims to acquire at least 15 million subscribers in an initial phase of the mobile deployment.

Rakuten also said it expects to invest at least JPY 200 billion ($1.75 billion) at the start of the service in 2019, and a maximum of JPY 600 billion in 2025.

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