The Middle Eastern operator is the latest to look to Rakuten to help strengthen their Open RAN development

Earlier this week, it was announced that Etisalat and Rakuten have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to build a reference blueprint for mobile broadband networks using Open RAN tech based on the Rakuten Communications Platform (RCP).

“This is a unique opportunity for Etisalat and Rakuten Mobile to co-explore and further develop next generation mobile networks based on RCP that will allow Etisalat to leverage a cost-effective, cloud-native, Open RAN based mobile network architecture that is secure, scalable and reliable,” said Etisalat’s CTO, Hatem Bamatraf.

Etisalat’s interest in Open RAN has been growing steadily over the past couple of years, with the company itself participating in numerous tech trials over the last 18-months or so. Learnings gained from the RCP could be invaluable, not only potentially transforming their network architecture in future, but also offering new revenue streams and customer experiences via multi-access edge computing deployments.

The potential scope of Open RAN development for Etisalat is considerable. The group currently operates in 16 markets around the world, with more than 154 million subscribers, meaning success with OpenRAN could have major implications for numerous markets around the world, both in 4G and 5G.

For Rakuten, who launched Rakuten Mobile in Japan using 4G and 5G Open RAN technology last year, the RCP represents their tech offering to extend their vendor-neutral model to other operators around the world. Since the Platform’s launch in June last year, the RCP has gained much interest, with Rakuten notably signing a similar MoU with Telefonica in September last year. 

One of the first publicised commercial deals for the RCP in fact came last month, with Ligado Networks selecting the platform as the base for its 5G private network offering.

Open RAN is continuing the gain traction in 2021. Earlier this week, Nokia’s head of mobile networks Tommi Uitto noted that Open RAN still has challenges but is nonetheless a highly strategic topic for the company when it comes to winning market share.

“We can win business either in baseband or radio [RU], or both, in some of the networks where we’re not present today by being a leader in O-RAN,” Uitto said in an interview with FierceWireless

Nokia is the first of the major vendors to develop a suite of Open RAN defined interfaces to work with its existing RAN portfolio. 


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