Sector Report

CLSA U Blue Books – Network disruption

by Oliver Matthew & Bill Rojas / Oct 16, 2019


Rakuten’s entry into the mobile arena sends a warning signal to the nation’s telcos. Its value proposition – combining 4G/5G service with a digital ecosystem – is unique in the industry, allowing it to take on the Big Three with a next-generation, end-to-end, software-defined architecture that is both scalable and flexible. Rakuten is set to become a key disruptive force in the consumer space, capitalising on its live TV, sports sponsorships, healthcare, financial services and online shopping. Enterprise will be a tougher challenge. We see real superhero genius in its endeavour.

Rakuten’s value proposition
Rakuten sees the mobile network business as part of a bigger ecosystem offering a range of digital life services for consumers and B2B2X services for enterprise. Its software-defined architecture will enable it to innovate faster than its competitors, and with more agility. The 4G/5G network will enable it to bring broadband wireless into its digital sphere of financial/retail transactions as well as many other areas.

Monetising the telco cloud
As Japan’s preeminent digital-services provider, Rakuten has already established a large subscriber/member base and a vast ecosystem of partners ranging from travel to financial, retail, entertainment and healthcare. Its strategy to enter the mobile market can work if it is able to execute on its cloud-native design.

Insights from Korea’s 5G commercial launch
The initial experience of the three Korean operators – which launched a nationwide service in April 2019 – provides lots of insight into the commercial and engineering challenges of 5G. The country is building out over 90% population coverage without increasing capex significantly, while early feedback on data pricing suggests that end-users will not want to see large premiums to 4G LTE.

Rakuten’s architecture explained
Rakuten has designed a distributed telco cloud using software-defined architecture. The vendor selection for its telco cloud is a best-of-breed approach. Its architecture is a highly scalable network that can be dynamically configured to handle changing workloads. 5G is forcing an accelerated transformation to cloud-native platforms.