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Business News/ Companies / News/  Japan's Rakuten to invest $10 mn in AI, 6G development in India
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Japan's Rakuten to invest $10 mn in AI, 6G development in India

Rakuten has also initiated discussions with the three major Indian telecom operators–Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea–to deploy small cells based on Open RAN technology

Sharad Sriwastawa, co-chief executive officer and chief technology officer of Rakuten Mobile and president of Rakuten Symphony.Premium
Sharad Sriwastawa, co-chief executive officer and chief technology officer of Rakuten Mobile and president of Rakuten Symphony.

BARCELONA : Japanese open RAN technology provider Rakuten Symphony, part of Rakuten Mobile, plans to invest $10 million in India this year to enhance AI capabilities and conduct research on 6G, a senior company executive said.

The initiative will be based in the company's Bengaluru research and development center, its second-largest tech hub outside Japan.

“This year and next year we are going to focus on expanding it, with a focus on ‘AI-nization’ initially. We plan to invest about $10 million this year for the lab and towards R&D for 6G," Sharad Sriwastawa, co-chief executive officer and chief technology officer of Rakuten Mobile and president of Rakuten Symphony, told Mint on the sidelines of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

Rakuten Mobile is the mobile operator arm of Rakuten Group, and Rakuten Symphony is its telecom platform solutions subsidiary.

Labeling India as a key global R&D hub, Sriwastawa said it had about 3,000 employees in Rakuten Symphony engaged in diverse research, development, and operational tasks.

The Indian arm of Rakuten has about 4,000 employees that support the group’s operations including e-commerce and payment services. He added that the company was hiring key function heads in India and transferring personnel to India to strengthen its local operations.

The global innovation lab, set up in FY2022-23, is in addition to its existing lab on the radio access network or RAN. Between the three centres–Bengaluru, Indore and Pune–the company’s R&D hubs focus on radio access networks, core networks and performance testing. 

Open RAN technology helps telecom operators to source hardware and software from different suppliers, thus ending dependence on single vendors.

Rakuten has also initiated discussions with the three major Indian telecom operators–Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea–to deploy small cells based on open RAN technology, Sriwastawa said.

“We have started initial discussions with all the three operators in India. Once they’re done with the deployment of 5G in a couple of months, then they will consider Open RAN. They’re going for small cells to start with, but for the macro (cells), the trials will start by the end of the year," he said.

The company had deployed about 5,000 femtocells in Bharti Airtel’s 4G network before 2021, but has since not made major headway into the Indian market.

Sriwastawa also said that the Rakuten group was among the first to adopt AI, and has developed AI algorithms for its e-commerce business in Japan. Having partnered with OpenAI last year, Rakuten will also tie up with the Sam Altman-backed tech company to develop AI solutions for mobile networks, including those for customer service, network optimization and predictive maintenance of telecom networks.

The reporter was in Barcelona to cover the Mobile World Congress at the invitation of Xiaomi.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Gulveen Aulakh
Gulveen covers both corporate and economy, and policy sections of Mint. She also covers telecom, IT from the corporate side and disinvestment, finance ministry from the economy side. Gulveen finds the rare mix of sectors she covers to be incredibly interesting.
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Published: 08 Mar 2024, 04:25 PM IST
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