Tuesday 6 October 2020

Rakuten Launches Cut-price 5G with Promise to Save Money

5G made an official debut in Japan back in April but as Rakuten is a new operator, it was not ready with its 5G network back then. Now they have just launched their 5G network and plan to shake the market with their innovative plans and approach.

Their official press release said:

Tokyo, September 30, 2020 – Rakuten Mobile, Inc. today announced the launch of its 5th generation mobile communications system (5G) service and a new and enhanced “Rakuten UN-LIMIT V” service plan which offers customers access to 5G services for the same 2,980 yen monthly fee as the previous “Rakuten UN-LIMIT 2.0” plan. From today, existing subscribers of the Rakuten UN-LIMIT 2.0 service plan will be able to use 5G services for no additional cost, in 5G service areas with a 5G-compatible device.

Mickey Mikitani, Chairman and CEO of Rakuten, Inc., and Representative Director, Chairman and CEO of Rakuten Mobile, Inc. commented, “Less than six months since full-scale commercial launch of the world's first fully virtualized mobile network, today Rakuten Mobile takes another step forward to transform the mobile industry: We're offering customers 4G and 5G combined in one simple plan – Rakuten UN-LIMIT V – at the same low price as 4G.

Our network technology is built to meet the ever-evolving needs of our customers – and with transformational innovation, we are passing on significant savings to our customers. As we move forward to expand 4G and 5G coverage, we aim to reduce the household cost of mobile services. This is also about encouraging consumer spending across other services and goods, contributing to the sustainable health of Japan's national economy.

Today, we're one step closer to transforming telecommunications and building a brighter future for everyone.”

Rakuten Mobile built the world’s first end-to-end fully virtualized cloud-native mobile network and launched full-scale commercial carrier services on the network in April 2020. The network architecture allows for substantial reductions in capital investment and operating costs, enabling the operator to offer the Rakuten UN-LIMIT V service plan, which includes both 4th generation mobile communications system (4G) and 5G services, for the same monthly fee of 2,980 yen. By leveraging the synergies between 5G and various offerings from the broad portfolio of Rakuten Group businesses to develop engaging new content and services, Rakuten Mobile aims to provide customers with a next-generation mobile experience.

Along with the launch of the new Rakuten UN-LIMIT V plan, the company also unveiled the “Rakuten BIG,” a new original 5G smartphone from Rakuten Mobile. In addition to this new product, users of the AQUOS R5G smartphone that went on sale in June 2020 will be able to use Rakuten Mobile’s 5G service after installing a software update to be released by Sharp Corporation from 3:30 p.m. on September 30.

Now offering 5G: Rakuten UN-LIMIT V

With Rakuten UN-LIMIT, Rakuten Mobile’s aim is to offer a service plan without complex terms and conditions ­– a plan that is simple, intuitive and easy-to-use for all customers, whether they are in Japan or traveling internationally. For 5G, Rakuten Mobile will continue its one service plan strategy by updating its Rakuten UN-LIMIT 2.0 service plan, which launched in April 2020 and offers subscribers unlimited data and calls for a monthly fee of 2,980 yen, to Rakuten UN-LIMIT V, which offers 5G services in addition to 4G. Starting today, the one plan offered to customers will be Rakuten UN-LIMIT V.

Current Rakuten UN-LIMIT 2.0 service plan customers who wish to use 5G services can now upgrade their service plan to Rakuten UN-LIMIT V on the “My Rakuten Mobile” app or through the Rakuten Mobile website. For other customers, service plans will be automatically upgraded to Rakuten UN-LIMIT V starting October 12, 2020*8. New applicants for the Rakuten UN-LIMIT V plan are also eligible for the campaign offering 3 million subscribers the first full year of service free of monthly fees launched in March 2020.

Overview of the service plan

- Plan name: Rakuten UN-LIMIT V

- Monthly fee: 2,980 yen

- Launch date: 3:30 p.m. on September 30, 2020

- Rakuten Points: Users will earn 1 Rakuten Point for every 100 yen spent on their Rakuten Mobile bill. Rakuten Mobile subscribers will also earn an additional +1% point-back incentive through the Super Point Up (SPU) program for purchases on Rakuten Ichiba.

Rakuten Mobile’s fully virtualized 5G mobile network

Rakuten Mobile’s 4G network is the world’s first fully virtualized cloud native mobile network. In its 5G network, excluding the core network, all 5G network functions, such as the virtualized OpenRAN, cloud and OSS, are run on the Rakuten Communications Platform (RCP), a telco platform that is based on containers for more flexible and stable development. Rakuten Mobile’s telecommunications platform utilizes equipment and software from trusted partners.

Rakuten Mobile’s network offers Non-Stand Alone (NSA) 5G service from September 30, 2020. Stand Alone (SA)*9 5G service is planned for launch in the second quarter of 2021. 

About the 5G service area

- Service area: Parts of Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama, Hokkaido, Osaka and Hyogo (as of September 30, 2020) *For more details, please see the official site*2. Rakuten Mobile will continue to expand the service area.

- 5G transmission speed:

 As of September 30, 2020: Maximum download speed: Approx. 870Mbps / Maximum upload speed: Approx. 110Mbps

 As of November 2020 (planned): Maximum download speed: Approx. 2.8Gbps / Maximum upload speed: Approx. 275Mbps

- 5G-compatible devices: Rakuten BIG, AQUOS R5G *Please see the device specifications for more details on the maximum transmission speeds for each device.

You can also read Rakuten blog on this topic here and details of their new 5G device, Rakuten BIG here. You can find the detailed specifications of the smartphone here.

There are still a lot of unanswered questions as the tweet above shows with details in this Light Reading article here.

The Mobile Network on the other hand has a technically detailed article here that provides information on different vendors, ecosystem partners and the different chipsets by Qualcomm and Intel in use.

Some other interesting articles around this launch include this on Linked from Dean Bubley, article from Telecom TV and finally this Light Reading article that is questioning Rakuten's investment in Altiostar and if it is worth $250 million.

Here is the complete video from the 5G launch that Rakuten kindly shared on their YouTube channel

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