The former CEO of Rakuten Mobile and Rakuten Symphony will serve as CEO of the oil giants new digital subsidiary

Earlier this year, Rakuten Mobile’s CEO Tareq Amin made something of a rapid and unexpected exit from the business for personal reasons.

Little information was given in the subsequent announcements, other than to say that group CEO Mickey Mikitani would take over as CEO of Rakuten Symphony and Sharad Sriwastawa, the CTO of Rakuten Mobile, would step up to the role of co-CEO alongside Kazuhiro Suzuki.

Now, according to a report from TelecomTV, it seems Amin has found a new home as head of Aramco’s new digital technology subsidiary, Aramco Digital.

Amin had long been one of the poster boys for Open RAN technology, mobile network architecture that allowed multiple interoperable equipment vendors to combine their solutions within a single mobile site. Indeed, this philosophy of vendor-neutral network construction was at the heart of Rakuten Mobile, the greenfield Japanese mobile network operator that Amin helped to launch back in 2019.

The company’s first commercial services were launched with a flourish back in 2020, featuring mobile prices roughly half those of its domestic competitors and even offered the first 3 million subscribers a year’s service free of charge.

But despite this aggressive strategy, Rakuten Mobile has failed to capture the market share it needs, racking up only around 5 million subscribers over the past three years. Company losses have climbed to almost $5.4 billion since 2019, leading the fledgling operator to embark on a series of cost cutting measures, including lowering capex to just $250 million.

Recently, rumours even suggest that a merger with KDDI could soon be on the cards for the struggling telco.

Perhaps this poor performance is at least some of the motivation behind Amin’s move to Aramco Digital – a company that will surely not have any such capex concerns.

Launched by Saudi Arabian oil behemoth Aramco in January this yar, the Aramco Digital subsidiary reportedly aims to harness AI and other emerging technologies to promote digitalisation throughout Saudi Arabia and the Middle East and Africa (MENA) region. This includes the using 4G and 5G technology to help bolster various industrial sectors, including the country’s energy, manufacturing, and petrochemical industries.

It should come as no surprise that, according to the report, Amin’s new role seems likely to include “a heavy focus on private 5G network developments and collaboration with Samsung”, with whom Aramco Digital signed a memorandum of understanding earlier this year to collaborate on 5G private network technology.

Further details of Amin’s ambitions for the company will be revealed in due time. Whether Aramco will seek to leverage his expertise in Open RAN in this new role remains to be seen.

Is Open RAN living up to the hype? What are the next steps for the nascent technology? Join the operators in discussion at this year’s Total Telecom Congress live in Amsterdam

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