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Omdia noted several interesting announcements in June that signaled the same thing – Japan and the Japanese telcos are making moves to tap into the global 5G equipment market. However, despite the ambitious target set by the Japanese government, it is still uncertain whether “Made in Japan” will succeed in the global vendor market.

Japan targets the global telecoms infrastructure market

In Asia, Japan was one of the leading telecoms markets in the 3G and 4G era. However, in terms of 5G network rollouts in Asia, Omdia notes that Japan missed the opportunity to launch commercial services in 2019 and is still lagging behind South Korea and China.

Now, the Japanese government is determined to catch up and take the leading role back, both in the telecoms market and in the equipment market. After all, the early advances of 5G rollouts in South Korea and China relied on strong backup from their domestic vendors – Samsung and Huawei.

In June 2020, the Japanese government released more details about its “Beyond 5G” strategy, which was launched in April this year. In its “Beyond 5G” strategy document, the Japanese government calls for an acceleration of the country’s 5G rollout, with a goal of setting up 210,000 base stations for 5G services across the country by the end of fiscal year 2023 – three times that of the number in its initial plan.

The strategy document also suggests that the 6G networks will be put into practical use in Japan around 2030. Meanwhile, Japan aims to acquire about 30% share in the global 6G infrastructure market, including software, securing Japan’s competitiveness in 6G services globally.

NTT and Rakuten unveil network equipment plans

Although the Japanese government has just set a target for the global infrastructure share of 6G technology – which is expected to be realized in around a decade, Omdia notes that the Japanese telcos have already revealed plans to step up their activities in the telecoms equipment market.

NTT ties up with NEC through acquisition

In June 2020, NTT and the Japanese equipment vendor NEC announced that NTT will invest in NEC for joint development of 5G wireless network technology. NTT will acquire a nearly 5% stake in NEC worth about JPY64.4bn ($600m), becoming its third largest shareholder.

NTT and NEC plan to make a joint effort at expanding their presence in the global market for wireless communications networks and will promote cooperation on developing future communication technologies beyond 5G.

Rakuten is looking to sell RCP to global markets

Rakuten, the new MNO entrant that just launched its mobile service in April this year, has announced that it is developing the Rakuten Communications Platform (RCP) offering to be made available to telecoms companies, government organizations, and other enterprise customers around the world.

According to Rakuten, RCP contains all the elements of Rakuten Mobile’s network, including telco applications and software from multiple vendors, OSS and BSS systems handling customer billing and activation systems, in addition to edge computing and virtual network management functions.

Most notably, in June 2020, Rakuten and NEC reached an agreement to jointly develop the containerized standalone (SA) 5G core network (5GC). The containerized 5GC will play a key role in the global expansion of RCP, as the 5GC will be offered as an application on the RCP Marketplace, allowing customers to quickly and easily “click, purchase, and deploy” a fully virtualized SA 5GC solution.

Also, to support its plans to bring RCP to international markets, Rakuten is setting up overseas offices. In June 2020, Rakuten announced the opening of its international headquarters in Singapore as both a development center for RCP and the central hub for global sales and marketing.

To support global sales and marketing for Rakuten Mobile’s RCP offering, Rakuten also plans to establish a US entity in California that will serve as a hub for international business expansion in the Americas.

Emerging opportunities for Japanese vendors as supply chain concerns grow, but the results remain to be seen

Omdia notes that the global 5G equipment vendor market has witnessed some uncertainties. In mid-July, the UK imposed a ban on Huawei – it will stop buying new 5G equipment from Huawei after December 31, 2020, and it will phase out all Huawei equipment from its 5G networks by the end of 2027. It is reported that the UK is seeking to bring in Japanese vendors for its 5G rollout after its ban on Huawei.

However, given the strong competition from the traditional global players Ericsson and Nokia, it is uncertain whether Japanese vendors, especially the Japanese telcos, can turn their ambitions into reality.

Rakuten Mobile has already announced that the launch of its 5G service, which was originally planned for June 2020, is expected to be delayed by three months, due to the impact of COVID-19. Omdia expects that the deployment of Rakuten’s cloud-native 5G network, if successful, would be the most compelling demonstration to potential global customers of the case for RCP.



Ramona Zhao, Research Manager, Asia-Pacific Service Provider Markets

[email protected]

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