“We have urged suppliers to share source code and cooperate to build an open 5G core network.”
“We also plan to package our experience and technology as a service to market, in order to help global operators deploy all-cloud telecommunications networks.”
Rakuten Mobile, the ambition of this new operator, is not only to be an operator, but also to be a vendor in the telecom cloud era.
Let’s start with Rakuten Mobile’s cloud network architecture.
Rakuten Mobile named their telecom cloud platform RCP, the full name is Rakuten Communications Platform, and its architecture is as follows:
RCP Cluster is located at the cloud infrastructure layer and is a containerized system based on K8s.
Based on the underlying containerized cloud infrastructure, RCP Functions is responsible for integration and orchestration to flexibly “assemble” the network functions (VNF) of the RAN and 5G core network.
Through the introduction of AI into the OSS/BSS domain, network management automation is realized, and the entire life cycle of automatic operation from service design, creation, and operation and maintenance is realized.
Similar to the “App Store”, it opens network capabilities to third-party developers to stimulate application innovation; provides a unified Portal entry to partners to facilitate the purchase and deployment of network services.
In March of this year, Lotte Mobile announced that its end-to-end cloud-native mobile network Capex is 40% cheaper than the traditional telecommunications network (RAN), and Opex is down 30%.
Based on the RCP architecture, how does Rakuten save costs?
It is nothing more than two: generalization and automation.
In terms of generalization, traditional telecommunications networks have nearly a hundred server hardware configurations (SKUs), while the goal of RCP Cluster is to “take all” all virtualized network element functions with one or a few server SKUs, thereby greatly reducing the complexity of hardware design It can save 40% of network deployment costs.
In terms of automation, Lotte RCP includes two automations, one is end-to-end network management automation, and the other is service lifecycle management automation to save labor costs. Lotte has announced that its entire network operation and maintenance team has only 130 people.
For example, the Rakuten Mobile Cloud Infrastructure Technology Development and Operation Department once introduced the vRAN automated site opening process.
As shown in the figure above, from the RIU of the base station sending an activation request to the Element Management System (EMS), to generating vDU and vCU VNF, to configuring the base station and cell parameters in the OSS, and then to activating the cell, the whole process takes only a few minutes to complete, almost no manual labor operate.
Rakuten Mobile said that in traditional mobile networks, a lot of manual operations are required to complete the above steps, which take several hours or even days, which increases the operator’s TCO, while the end-to-end automation of Rakuten Mobile can greatly reduce Labor costs.
What is so special about Lotte’s RCP architecture?
As we all know, the 5G core network is oriented to cloud-native design, based on microservices and containerized deployment. After network function virtualization (NFV), it further decomposes VNF (virtualized network function) into network function service modules with smaller granularity, statelessness, relatively independent and flexible call, so as to realize more fine-grained modularization. “Assemble” network functions. At the same time, the openness of network capabilities and the automation of network operations are also key features of the 5G core network.
In fact, from a technical point of view, Lotte RCP is not much different from the current 5G core network solutions of all manufacturers and operators.
The main difference is: end-to-end cloudification and an ambition buried in the RCP architecture.
Let me talk about end-to-end cloudification first.
For traditional operators, the current network cloudification mainly focuses on the core network, and Lotte Mobile will also cloud/virtualize the RAN (radio access network).
As shown in the figure above, Lotte Mobile’s core network and vRAN functional software are based on a unified RCP Cluster cloud infrastructure deployment, and achieve end-to-end automation through a unified RCP Automator.
Regarding Rakuten Mobile’s ambitions buried in the RCP architecture, let’s take a look at a series of actions by this new operator in the past year.
Since Lotte Mobile announced in 2019 that it will build the world’s first end-to-end fully virtualized cloud-native mobile communication network, it has continuously filled its RCP structure through strategic investment, acquisition or in-depth cooperation.
In May 2019, Rakuten Mobile strategically invested in vRAN software provider Altiostar.
Altostar is the software supplier of Rakuten Mobile’s virtualized RAN. After completing this investment, the president and CTO of Rakuten Mobile will join the Altiostar board of directors.
In March 2020, Rakuten Mobile and NEC announced the start of production of the Open RAN 5G RU (radio unit) jointly developed by the two companies, and the first device has been delivered.
According to Rakuten data, the RU supports Massive MIMO 32T32R with an EIRP value of 71dBm.
In May 2020, Rakuten Mobile announced plans to acquire Innoeye.
Innoeye is a company that provides automated OSS solutions, corresponding to the RCP Automator part of RCP.
On June 4, 2020, Rakuten Mobile announced a collaboration with Japanese supplier NEC to develop a container-based 5G cloud-native core network.
Pay attention to the two red circles in the figure above. This cooperation can be said to be very deep, requiring the core network to be open and source code to be shared.
“In the era of 5G core network, everything must be cloud-native, built based on microservice architecture and stateless design. Our goal is to deploy on our own cloud platform.” A few days ago, Lotte Mobile CTO stated An online meeting stated:
“We have urged NEC to change the thinking of traditional equipment suppliers and build an open 5G core network through shared source code and joint innovation.”
Looking back at the RCP architecture diagram of Lotte Mobile, it contains all the elements of a 4G/5G mobile network, including RAN and core network functional software from multiple vendors, OSS/BSS systems, orchestrators and controllers, and operations Platform etc.
Obviously, Rakuten Mobile’s ambition is to integrate all cloud network “elements” into RCP through investment and acquisition of some small software vendors in the RCP architecture on the one hand, and open cooperation with giants such as NEC, Cisco, etc. Set up a complete cloud-native packaging solution under its control, and then provide it to other telecom operators or private network operators.
In this way, the role of Rakuten Mobile has changed, from an operator to a hybrid telecommunications company that integrates multiple roles of suppliers, integrators, and operators. Ambition is not small!