Rakuten Mobile has opened the Rakuten Mobile Open Innovation Lab. This virtualized Open vRAN verification platform will be made available to operators, vendors, and other enterprises, in addition to academic organizations. Rakuten Mobile also plans to expand the lab to accelerate the research and development of Open vRAN in Japan and globally, contributing to the promotion of disaggregated architecture and containerization to run cloud native network functions on commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware. 

In Japan, Rakuten Mobile has deployed Rakuten Mobile Open Innovation Lab functions in the Rakuten Cloud Innovation Lab and will also provide Open RAN technology verification environments at Tokyo Institute of Technology and the University of Tokyo Graduate School of Engineering Nakao Laboratory campuses, both of which are remotely connected to the lab. Rakuten Mobile is also carrying out joint research and development with the Tokyo Institute of Technology and the University of Tokyo as part of the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) ‘Beyond 5G R&D Promotion Project’. 

As partner companies are able to connect to the lab remotely, Open vRAN technology verification is made possible without traveling to the testing location or building a verification environment on site, Rakuten Mobile said. Rakuten also reports it can build technology verification capabilities in facilities owned by partner companies. 

Rakuten Mobile is providing its commercial mobile service on an Open vRAN mobile network that is compliant with the technical specifications for Open vRAN defined by the O-RAN Alliance. The Rakuten Mobile Open Innovation Lab uses the same architecture as Rakuten Mobile’s flexible, virtualized network in which the distributed unit (vDU) and centralized unit (vCU) are disaggregated. According to Rakuten, this platform makes it possible to execute test cases from multiple locations and realize a flexible Open vRAN deployment that matches the partner company’s network requirements. 

Looking ahead to “Beyond 5G”, the Rakuten Mobile Open Innovation Lab aims to support trials to optimize network design and operation through the vRAN Intelligent Controller (RIC), an intelligent component which manages and controls the RAN. Rakuten Mobile says it is also developing AI applications for the RIC platform, which is expected to automatically improve the performance and stability of Open vRAN, for example by detecting and predicting traffic and anomalies on the network.

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