Rakuten delays 5G launch date citing pandemic

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The launch of Rakuten Mobile’s 5G network in Japan won’t go ahead in June as planned due to knock-on effects of COVID-19.

Rakuten launched its fully virtualised cloud-native 4G network in April, around six months behind the original schedule. The 5G service is now expected to be delayed by approximately three months due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on part of the company’s global supply chain.

Rakuten said its 5G base station deployment plans for FY2020, as submitted to Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, remain on track. Rakuten plans to deploy 677 5G base stations and expand its mobile network coverage to 70% of Japan's population by the end of March 2021.

Near future

“We would like to extend our deepest sympathies to all those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and thank all of our employees and partner staff for their commitment to our 5G rollout during these difficult times,” commented Tareq Amin, Representative Director, Executive Vice President and CTO of Rakuten Mobile. “We will work to minimise the impact of the pandemic and look forward to launching our 5G service in the near future.”

Rakuten said it will continue to monitor the impact of the COVID-19 crisis and will make further announcements on the timing of the 5G launch in due course.

Japan’s incumbent operators, NTT Docomo, KDDI and SoftBank, launched 5G services in March.