Rakuten expands free trial ahead of April commercial launch

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Rakuten Mobile is expanding its ‘Free Supporter Program’ to an additional 20,000 participants, and says it is on track to launch the world’s first end-to-end fully virtualised cloud-native network in April.

The Free Supporter Program was launched in October and has already provided free voice and data services to 5,000 users in return for feedback.

Rakuten’s network was initially planned to launch in October 2019 but ran into delays around base station deployment. Japan’s telecoms ministry has reportedly urged the company to speed up the build-out.

“Steady progress”

Rakuten says “steady progress” is being made, with more than 3,000 4G base stations now installed. By March, the installed base will exceed the target of 3,432 approved by the Japanese Ministry for Internal Affairs and Communications, the company said.

“Rakuten Mobile is on track to launch full commercial services in April of this year,” a statement from the company said. “The new network architecture allows flexible deployment of new services and lays the groundwork for simple and speedy implementation of 5G.

"With substantial reduction of capital investment and operation costs, it also allows the operator to pass on significant savings to customers. Rakuten Mobile will continue to incorporate customer feedback into the improvement of services in preparation for full commercial launch.”

Rakuten is also launching a beta version of its new “Rakuten Link” app for calling and texting between Free Supporter Program participants.