Japanese operator Rakuten Mobile, a unit of e-commerce giant Rakuten, is likely to limit the scope of its mobile launch in October due to delays in the installation of wireless base stations across Japan, according to a report by Nikkei Asian Review.
Rakuten Mobile’s plan stipulates the deployment of 3,432 base stations mainly in Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka by the end March 2020.
However, the company had only deployed about half of the expected base stations at the end of June, according to the report.
“We are having trouble with getting the wiring done,” a source at Rakuten Mobile said. The shortage of construction workers ahead of the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020 has been a setback as well.
“We will absolutely have the bases ready in time for October,” Rakuten Chairman and CEO Hiroshi Mikitani told reporters last week. However, the executive suggested that the carrier could start with a “small launch” with limited number of users and services.
“We will have Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka generally covered, but we don’t have enough bases in city centers that have a high concentration of users,” another Rakuten source said.
Last week, the communications ministry had instructed Rakuten Mobile to speed up the rollout of base stations in order to be in a position to launch mobile services at the beginning of October.
The ministry said it hopes that Rakuten Mobile will launch its full services promptly in order to facilitate price competition in the industry. Other operators in the Japanese market include KDDI, NTT DoCoMo and SoftBank.
“We’ll continue to monitor progress on its development of base stations, aiming to have its services offered properly,” communications minister Masatoshi Ishida said during a press conference last week.
The new mobile carrier will offer services on the network of KDDI in areas not covered by its own network.
Rakuten Mobile had received approval for its ‘Special Base Station Deployment Plan’ in April 2018.
The company has said it aims to acquire at least 15 million subscribers in an initial phase.
Rakuten expects to deploy a total of 4,000 edge servers in Japan for the launch of its virtualized mobile network, Mikitani recently said in an interview with CNBC.
The executive said that Rakuten does not have to deploy brand new network infrastructure in the Asian country in order to launch commercial 5G services, which is expected to occur in June next year.
Rakuten has previously said that its launch will rely on what it claims to be the world’s first end-to-end fully virtualized, cloud-native mobile network, which will allow the company to avoid deploying large amounts of hardware. The company highlighted that this virtualized network is cheaper to deploy and can be upgraded quickly.
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