Rakuten & NEC join forces to develop 5G base stations

5th June 2019: Rakuten Mobile Inc., a new market entrant, said today it will use the technology of NEC Corp. in building base stations nationwide for its super-fast 5G telecommunications services, selecting a domestic partner for stable supply.

The unit of Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten Inc. and the major network technology company will jointly develop wireless antennas over the next five years to construct a network across the country for 5G services scheduled to start in June 2020.

Rakuten, which plans to invest 194.6 billion yen ($1.8 billion) in the system, aims to install around 16,000 base stations nationwide at low cost, in a bid to attract users away from the three major carriers of NTT Docomo Inc., SoftBank Corp. and KDDI Corp., which together control nearly 90 percent of the market.

Rakuten adopted the technology of Finnish telecommunications equipment maker Nokia Corp. in building base stations for the 4G services it will offer from October.

But for the 5G services, Rakuten apparently picked NEC in view of procurement risks following the recent U.S. blacklisting of Chinese tech giant Huawei Technologies Co., a leader in the field of next-generation wireless services, amid the heightened trade dispute between Washington and Beijing.

Rakuten sources have said it will refrain from using products of Huawei and ZTE Corp. after the Japanese government decided in December to effectively exclude the two Chinese firms from public procurement, reflecting U.S. concerns their products may facilitate spying and lead to a potential disruption to communication networks.

The 5G services, touted as enabling smartphone users to download a two-hour film in just three seconds, are expected to be used in a wide range of purposes such as to deliver autonomous driving and boost the usage of devices that are connected to the internet.

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