Rakuten Symphony has chosen Juniper Networks’ RAN intelligent controller (RIC) for its Symworld Platform, in an exclusive arrangement.

Symworld is Rakuten Symphony’s Platform that brings all the pieces and parts together from Rakuten Mobile’s experience building an open RAN network and makes it available for purchase by other wireless operators around the world.

It may seem a bit odd to chose Juniper, which isn’t often thought of as a RAN supplier, for the important RIC component. But Rakuten Symphony and Rakuten Mobile CEO Tareq Amin reminded everyone yesterday in a media call that Juniper has been involved with Rakuten from the early days of the buildout of its wireless network in Japan. Rakuten Mobile embedded Juniper’s virtual, cloud-native routing stack in its distributed unit (DU).

At Mobile World Congress Americas in Las Vegas in September, Amin said the RIC announcement was coming. He said then that the Symphony RIC would be offered for free, and he reiterated that yesterday. Of course, Symphony makes its money by requiring customers to buy an application that runs on top of its platform. It’s assumed that Juniper will engage in some kind of revenue-sharing arrangement with Symphony.

The RIC

The RAN intelligent controller is a critical part of an open RAN network architecture as it’s regarded as the brain, controlling the disaggregated components.

When a telco customer purchases a Symworld application, the supporting Symworld Platform is delivered for free and will now include the Juniper Networks RIC.

Telecom nerds are pretty excited about the future potential of the RIC, which will automatically manage much of the intelligence of the RAN in a way that was previously referred to as a self-organizing network (SON).

John Baker, SVP of business development at Mavenir, has previously said, “One of the visions that we’ve really been pushing is that the RIC actually starts to look like the Apple Store to the extent that I can have third-party applications sitting on a RIC controller that are designed for a specific use. And I think that’s the excitement as you take that into 6G to the extent you’ve got all this innovation that creates apps in the same way that Apple created apps for the iPhone, you can create apps and commercialize apps for the RAN.”

The app-store analogy was mentioned on yesterday’s call with Rakuten Symphony and Juniper.

Amin said, “I have no doubt we are going to create an economy for third-party apps,” and he mentioned such things as energy management and control over the physical footprint of cell sites. “The use cases are endless,” he said.

Juniper Networks CEO Rami Rahim said, “We have been working with a number of carriers on business development efforts for using our RIC for a variety of use cases.”

How crowded is the RIC market?

Mobile Experts analyst Joe Madden recently wrote, “All of the top network vendors will have their own RIC platforms, and they will try to use this to maintain their differentiation based on algorithms that they’ve developed over the past 30 years. In addition, we have several new companies that will offer a RIC, from NEC and Mavenir to Juniper and VMware. So far, we are counting at least 12 options on the market. This is a barrier that will prevent a RAN developer community from coming together.”

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