Saturday, 30 May 2020

Rakuten Mobile puts the brakes on 5G launch

by Harry Baldock, Total Telecom
Tuesday 19 May 20

The Japanese company said the coronavirus pandemic had pushed back its planned launch by three months

The coronavirus pandemic is having a detrimental impact on operators’ 5G deployments around the world and last week it claimed yet another victim, forcing back Rakuten Mobile’s 5G launch by three months.   Rakuten Mobile launched its highly anticipated, fully virtualised 4G service back in April…

The coronavirus pandemic is having a detrimental impact on operators’ 5G deployments around the world and last week it claimed yet another victim, forcing back Rakuten Mobile’s 5G launch by three months.
 
Rakuten Mobile launched its highly anticipated, fully virtualised 4G service back in April, offering highly competitive prices to rattle its Japanese rivals. It was scheduled to do likewise with its rapidly growing 5G network, but the coronavirus has caused significant delays.
 
Restrictions on movement due to the virus appear to be at the heart of this delay, with the company’s supply chain and testing schedule being the most affected. The company has been trying its best to leverage its existing assets to minise COVID-19 disruptions – for example, using drones to conduct remote mast inspections – but it seems the delay was ultimately unavoidable when it came to the company's 5G network.
 
Nonetheless, the company has repeated that the actual deployment of 5G base stations remains on track, with Rakuten planning to deploy 677 of these units, effectively covering 70% of Japan’s population, by March 2021.
 
“We would like to extend our deepest sympathies to all those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and thank all of our employees and partner staff for their commitment to our 5G rollout during these difficult times. We will work to minimize the impact of the pandemic and look forward to launching our 5G service in the near future,” said Rakuten Mobile CTO Tareq Amin in a statement.
 
The delay will be something of a disappointment for Rakuten, whose rivals NTT Docomo, KDDI and SoftBank all launched 5G commercially back in March. However, these rival deployments have been fairly limited and similarly slowed by the pandemic's limitations, meaning Rakuten may not find itself quite as behind the curve when it comes to customer acquisition as would be expected. 
 
 
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