Rakuten Symphony is priming 44 operators to overtake
Mobile operators in Africa could use Open RAN to leap frog their European peers who are bent over fiddling with their legacy equipment, according to Geoff Hollingworth, chief marketing officer for mobile systems integrator Rakuten Symphony. Hollingworth answered critics who have claimed that O-RAN will be impractical since it involves an over complicated and expensive integration process.
In May, telecom analyst John Strand claimed that the policy of keeping radio access networks (RANs) open to contributions from every equipment manufacturer, while laudable, would slow down progress because it’s too laborious. “O-RAN will impede Africa’s progress,” Strand said. Hollingworth disagreed. These markets are more likely to adopt faster something new that can help them become technology leaders, Hollingworth told Telecom TV, since new working practices are easier to adopt if there is no emotional attachment to the old ones. It is easier to take risks and advance down new routes, and retreat if necessary, when you are not pulling a legacy ball and chain.
Speaking to Telecom TV, Hollingsworth told how the spin-off from Japanese mobile network operator (MNO) Rakuten Mobile, can help the mobile network operators in the emerging markets can become leaders. The advantage of coming from behind is that there is no ‘legacy’ to be disentangled and MNOs in Africa can learn from the trials and tribulations of those who’ve been down this path before. When it comes to 5G, Africa has no reason to want to repeat the mistakes of Western Europe and it could enjoy “an advantage in being behind”, leapfrogging its peers in other markets.
Rakuten Symphony aims to “destroy the digital gap for everybody” by connecting the 3 billion unconnected people in the world with the right cost efficiency and an operational scale, Hollingworth told Telecom TV’s Yanitsa Boyadzhieva. “It’s everybody’s right that connectivity should be available to allow people to be what they could be,” said Hollingworth. A lack of connectivity shouldn’t be the reason that you can’t take part in the society, he said.
MTN proving concept
At Mobile World Congress Rakuten Symphony announced that it would run proof of concept trials on Open RAN-enabled 4G and 5G with pan African mobile operator the MTN Group. It is currently running live trials in South Africa, Nigeria and Liberia. Rakuten Symphony (RS) is currently working on 44 Open RAN systems integration projects. The power of a tightly integrated O-RAN machine is in the ratios, Hollingworth told Mobile Europe. Since RS has cracked the challenges of automation it can maintain a huge global infrastructure with around 250 staff. Anyone who doubts the power of an O-RAN structured telco cloud should witness the process of one of these omnipotent intelligent systems booting itself up, enervating all points of the network and running itself, Hollingworth said.