Rakuten: Build Edge to Cut Network Costs

Tariq Amin is building what may be the most advanced network in the world for Rakuten, Japan’s new #4 carrier. Pioneers get arrows in the back and he is months behind schedule, but everyone is watching for the lessons he’s learned.

Amin is very happy with the early results of what will be an Edge Network with 4,000 servers. ” We have moved all of our workloads to our edge data centers. That makes things easier for deployment, construction costs are cheaper, operation and maintenance requirements are substantially cheaper than traditional networks. We think this is the future, this is how you build telecoms of the future.”

He adds “We spent most of our energy on trying to virtualize the radio access because the cost impact, and the economics, and the benefits that this will bring to Rakuten is too important and tremendous for our future growth. “

Outside customers for low latency Edge Networks are few, so almost all the Europeans are holding back. That’s a mistake. Nearly all large telcos should be at least beginning the Edge deployment. See Hoffman: Minimum Edge $3M-10. It should pay for itself just with the efficiencies it brings for your network upgrades.

Google, Microsoft, and Amazon are sniffing around for deals. Google’s Stadia game service isn’t getting the performance it needs and will work better at the Edge. Video doesn’t really need Edge; a 15 megabit 4K UHD video runs fine from the cloud almost everywhere. But with a dozen major streaming networks fighting viciously for new customers, even a small difference, like faster program changes, may be worth paying for.

A distributed Edge Cloud requires extremely efficient management. Data has to be stored at the right place or moved there in milliseconds. You want to be able to serve a car driving 60 miles per hour and constantly switching cell sites. GMA each has thousands of engineers developing clouds. No telco can match that expertise.

Allying with one of the giants may be the right move.

The quotes are from Caroline Gabriel at Wireless Watch. She may just be the best telecom analyst working in Europe. WW costs upwards of US$2500/year but delivers great value for the money. If you take the free trial, you’ll be able to read her very strong article on the TIP conference and Vodafone’s order of 100,000 O-RAN radios. http://bit.ly/2KN0kAz

Improvements welcome