Operator to open facility in the UK next year dedicated to promoting and demonstrating Open RAN.

The project is designed to promote adoption of Open RAN technologies in the EMEA region, and has been funded by the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications. The ‘Open RAN Customer Experience Centre’ will be built at the Rakuten Symphony offices in the UK by March 2023, and will apparently offer telecom operators and industry suppliers ‘direct experience and testing of the latest technological advances in the field.’

Rakuten Symphony plans to invite in partners to the facility to validate equipment interoperability, establish exhibition facilities, and conduct workshops. The project was given funding by the Japanese government ‘because of its potential to contribute to this global strategic partnership between the UK and Japan.’

“We are honoured to have the opportunity to build our first Open RAN Customer Experience Center in the UK where we can provide an environment for testing Open RAN solutions, as well as establish a hub for Open RAN thought leadership in Europe and the Middle East,” said Nobuyuki Uchida, executive officer, division manager, technology, strategy & compliance division at Rakuten Mobile.

Nastasi Karaiskos, managing director, Rakuten Symphony UK added: “We are very grateful for the support of the Japanese government and look forward to establishing a foundation for Open RAN testing, education and thought leadership here in the UK.”

The new UK facility follows the launch of the Rakuten Mobile Open Innovation Lab in Tokyo in August this year, which was described as ‘a technology verification environment that utilizes the technologies and experience acquired by Rakuten Mobile through its Open RAN commercial mobile network.’

Meanwhile, Rakuten snapped up a license last week to perform mobile communication tests and preliminary verification in Japan using AST SpaceMobile’s low earth orbit satellite, BlueWalker 3. The project’s ultimate aim is to provide comms using AST SpaceMobile’s planned network to connect to smartphones in mountainous areas and remote islands, which are usually out of range of networks, in part to help with disaster management. AST SpaceMobile launched the test satellite BlueWalker 3 into orbit from the US in September, and this month it announced the deployment of the communications array for its test satellite in orbit.

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