Wireless networks like Dish and Rakuten move to the cloud to reduce costs

Texas News Today

Nowadays, everything from student semester thesis to company personnel information resides in the cloud. Cloud is a large computer farm operated by Amazon.com and others. Ltd.

Holds and processes data.

There are also fast mobile networks working there.

This is especially true for wireless networks created by start-ups such as Dish Network. Ltd.

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and Rakuten Group in Japan Ltd.

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We are trying to have a cost advantage over our larger and more established competitors.

People who use smart devices to download videos, send messages to friends, and make old-fashioned phone calls usually don’t think much about the machines that process the data behind the scenes. However, the cost of installing and maintaining customized network equipment made by suppliers. Like Nokia in Finland. Ltd.

Sweden’s Ericsson AB and China’s Huawei Technologies Co. — Help explain why unlimited monthly cellular data plans bill over $70.

In contrast, so-called virtualized networks aim to incorporate many of the capabilities of their customized devices into software programs that run on off-the-shelf servers. With the ability to perform tasks such as processing wireless signals in the cloud, operators can reduce capital investment and operating costs.

One of the companies trying to enter the market with cloud-based wireless networks is Tokyo-based e-commerce company Rakuten. Rakuten has built its fourth nationwide wireless network in Japan, through which it has begun offering high-speed 5th generation (5G) services. It competes with three existing carriers, NTT DoCoMo Inc. and KDDI. Ltd.

and softbank Ltd.

Its total market share is 85%.

“We’ve come to the conclusion that if we operate like any other industry, we can’t compete,” says Nobuyuki Uchida, an executive at Rakuten’s mobile division.

Rakuten advocates the virtualization and operation of both parts of the mobile network (a wireless base station with antennas that connects individual devices and a core network that transfers traffic between devices) on the cloud. .. The company still needs base stations nearby, but base stations are smaller than base stations deployed in traditional networks because they do not require dedicated hardware to handle voice calls and data requests. this is easy. Instead, the base station simply sends signals from individual devices to the software in the cloud for processing.

Rakuten’s cloud-based wireless network hub.

Photo:
Rakuten Group, Inc.

Companies such as Rakuten have stated that software-driven networks have lower maintenance costs because updates can be done remotely at once, rather than individually updating at a base station. This makes it easier to fix problems and to move and accommodate network resources in areas of high demand, such as when an area is affected by a natural disaster.

They say that because there is no dedicated hardware with limited transmission capacity, resources such as processing power can be diverted to areas with sudden traffic spikes. In addition, according to Rakuten’s Uchida, virtualized networks run on multiple off-the-shelf servers rather than optimized devices, making it easier to switch when servers go down.

Rakuten estimates it saves 40% on network construction costs, but still spends about $10 billion, which could be 30% less than the major wireless carriers. The company offers an unlimited monthly plan for around $30, which is about half the price of its competitors.

This is a bold experiment, but it does not guarantee success.

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Analyst Hiro Takishi said cloud networks may eventually be necessary for 5G services because of their flexibility and cost. However, at this point in time, traffic speeds may be better in traditional networks that use optimized devices to process large amounts of data quickly.

Furthermore, Rakuten-style networks have not yet proven to be truly more cost-effective than traditional networks, Takishi says. General-purpose servers can consume more power, he says. And as a newcomer, Rakuten hasn’t been tested yet because of the huge traffic of its established rivals.

Nevertheless, new carriers feel that virtualization and cloud-based networks have few betting options. In August, Rakuten agreed to supply the technology to German wireless operators 1 and 1AG.,

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We plan to start building wireless networks in Germany by the end of this year.

A 1&1 spokesperson said the network “fully harnesses the potential of 5G” and is not limited to some global giants such as Nokia and Ericsson, which make specialized telecommunications equipment rather than suppliers. He says that he will give many options to the company.

In the United States, Dish is set to become the fourth national player in mobile services after Verizon Communications. Ltd.,

AT&T Ltd.

and T-Mobile US Ltd.

Dish, primarily known as a satellite TV provider, plans to introduce a 5G network running on cloud computing powered by Amazon Web Services. The company said the first test of the network will take place in Las Vegas later this year.

Dish President Charlie Ergen said in a statement on August 9 that virtualization will transform the telecommunications industry by providing competitive opportunities for operators without existing infrastructure.

“Our bets and guts, and everything we know, is changing. We are helping to change that,” he said.

Existing operators are also adopting cloud-based technology, but they are often more cautious. Japan’s top mobile operator, NTT DoCoMo, says it runs nearly half of its core network on off-the-shelf hardware and thus handles voice calls. We plan to complete core network virtualization by 2025, but base stations are not included in the plan.

Yoshihiro Nakajima, DoCoMo’s manager working on virtualization, said the company believes the benefits of migration can be maximized by not virtualizing all of a sudden.

Verizon and Samsung Electronics Ltd.

They say they recently completed fully virtualized 5G data sessions in Texas, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. Verizon says the test achieved speeds in line with traditional hardware-based devices.

“Virtualization is key to delivering the services promised by advanced 5G networks,” Verizon says.

Mr. Fujikawa is a reporter for The Wall Street Journal in Tokyo. Email him at [email protected]

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