Rakuten Symphony unveils ‘Symworld’ and expands in Europe

  • Rakuten Mobile’s cloud-enabled integrator and vendor spin-off is ramping up
  • It has launched a cloud-oriented, automated mobile network toolset that is essentially the packaged and productised version of its Rakuten Communications Platform (RCP)
  • Symworld is based on the virtualized capabilities used in Japan to build and manage the Rakuten Mobile network
  • Symphony is also expanding in France and the UK as well as Germany as it aims to meet demand for Open RAN capabilities in Europe

Rakuten Symphony, the Open RAN-focused vendor spin-out from Japanese mobile operator Rakuten Mobile, has launched an automated, cloud-oriented mobile network platform called Symworld that, it claims, can massively simplify and speed up day-to-day telco processes, and has announced plans to expand its operations and boost its headcount in Europe to tap into the regional demand for Open RAN capabilities.  

Symworld is, essentially, the packaged, productised and enhanced version of the Rakuten Communications Platform (RCP), the cloud-oriented, virtualized collection of functions and tools that are used to plan, build and run the Rakuten Mobile 4G and 5G networks in Japan and which Symphony is offering, along with its systems integration expertise, to any network operator worldwide that’s interested in deploying an Open RAN-enabled network. 

Symphony’s pitch is that this is the technology already used and proven in Rakuten Mobile’s network in Japan, which now has 96% population coverage from 200,000 cell sites. It claims the technology, automation and operational processes used in Japan have led to 40% lower capital costs compared with ‘traditional’ mobile network deployments. “It brings to life the foundation of RCP, from unified cloud and network functions for the RAN, core and edge, to intelligent operations including automation and AI,” and offers “a platform marketplace and portal with one-touch, intuitive and GUI-based controls to provide everything operators need to seamlessly plan, design, build and operate advanced, secure, high-quality networks without friction,” notes Symphony in its launch announcement. (See Powering mobile networks at scale and speed of cloud: Rakuten Symphony launches Symworld.)

That platform and set of tools is set to be used in Germany by 1&1, the greenfield 5G network operator that has puts its faith in Rakuten Symphony to plan, build and operate its network. (See German operator 1&1 to build greenfield Open RAN network with Rakuten.)

Expansion in Europe

Germany is one of the countries where Symphony is expanding its European operations.

The company says it is recruiting extra staff in Germany (for obvious reasons!) and is also building up its presence in France and the UK.

In Germany, Symphony currently has about 200 staff and is looking to increase that number to between 500 and 600 "for peak operations," according to a spokesperson for the company.

In France, a local unit is being established to promote Symphony’s capabilities to network operators, which would naturally include Orange, one of the more Open RAN-friendly of the major carriers. Here, Symphony is aiming to build a team of about 75 staff this year and double that number to at least 150 in 2023.

The French unit, based in Paris, will be headed up by Olivier Alluis, who is also head of Symphony’s Digital Experience (DX) division, which looks after “BSS (Business Support Systems), digital business platforms and international wholesale business” at Symphony.

In the UK, the expansion will build on the existing R&D facilities set up by Altiostar Networks, of which Rakuten took full ownership last year. According to the spokesperson, "we have approximately 30 employees and are looking to double the size over the next year. In addition to organic growth, we expect to see the numbers flex with new projects."

Symphony says the UK unit will look to work with the UK government and British operators to help them achieve the recently-stated “ambition for 35% of mobile network traffic in the UK to be carried over open and interoperable RAN architectures by 2030.” (See UK government outlines Open RAN traffic ambition, sets deadline for 2G/3G retirement.)

Overall, then, Rakuten Symphony is aiming to add at least 500+ employees to its staff roster in the coming few years.  

“Europe is a mature market for mobile network infrastructure and yet mobile network operators and governments are incredibly open to the opportunities Open RAN technologies can bring to the region,” noted Symphony CEO Tareq Amin. “We’re expanding our operations across Europe to strengthen our research and development capabilities and our commitment to the region. We will collaborate closely with European operators, vendors, governments and academic institutions to contribute to developing the region’s Open RAN technologies, while working to realize our vision of providing a future-proof, cost-effective, cloud-based connectivity platform to transform the delivery of telecommunications services by mobile network operators.”

Those operators will include the group of five major telcos that have already shared their Open RAN requirements with the vendor community, and which are trying to kickstart a broader Open RAN ecosystem in the region, and Symphony’s expansion will help with that. The company says it is currently has 10 commercial customers worldwide of which four are in Europe, with Telefónica the other named customer in the region in addition to 1&1. (See Open RAN MoU operators publish their tech wish list.)

The news came as Rakuten Mobile announced another year of large financial losses but noted, with its 96% population coverage and growing subscriber base, that it is turning a corner and expects to be reporting improving financials (shrinking losses) from the second quarter of this year onwards. (See Rakuten Group FY2021 and Q4 FY2021 financial results highlights.)

 - Ray Le Maistre, Editorial Director, TelecomTV

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