Rakuten Mobile turns to Cisco for optical, IP overhaul

Japanese operator Rakuten Mobile tapped Cisco to help it overhaul its optical and IP infrastructure, planning to deploy technologies which will drastically simplify its architecture and yield substantial cost savings.

Specifically, the operator is planning to implement Segment Routing over IPv6 (SRv6) and Cisco’s Routed Optical Networking solution, which was unveiled in March, for its transport needs including backhaul.

Jonthan Davisdon, EVP and GM of Cisco's Mass-Scale Infrastructure Group, told Fierce SRv6 allows operators to predetermine the paths different types of traffic take to get from point A to point Z in the network. He pointed to security, compliance and quality assurance as some of the reasons why providers might want to send certain traffic down a specific route.

He added SRv6 “dramatically simplifies” the routing architecture in comparison to legacy MPLS and VLAN designs and makes it easier to “automate and deploy services wherever you want to deploy them in the network.

RELATED: Cisco unveils Routed Optical Networking solution

Routed Optical Networking offers a further simplification by collapsing the various layers of the network into a single common layer and provides capex savings upwards of 40%, Davidson said. “The IP layer is now the layer, so you can really get maximum statistical multiplexing of traffic through your infrastructure,” he explained.

In terms of what this all means for Rakuten, the companies explained in a press release the new architecture will help the operator support network slicing for future 5G use cases and expand its ability to offer enterprises new 5G and IoT services.

Rakuten Mobile CTO Tareq Amin said in a statement its decision to use SRv6 and Cisco’s Routed Optical Networking “demonstrates our effort to take advantage of technology innovation at every layer of the stack.” 

RELATED: Cisco highlights how ZR pluggables are changing optical architecture

This isn’t the first time Raktuen and Cisco have teamed up. In 2019, Rakuten tapped Cisco to deploy 4,000 edge nodes and supply routing and switching hardware. Cisco also scored a prime spot as the primary systems integrator for Rakuten’s virtualized telco cloud.

Davidson said Rakuten is far from alone in moving to upgrade its transport infrastructure, noting over 200 Cisco customers are either planning or in the process of deploying SRv6. The shift to Routed Optical Networking is a bit more complicated and will take more time, but is underway as brownfield operators are replacing transponders with ZR pluggables.

He added Cisco has seen “phenomenal” traction with its ZR optics and has been doing trials with customers since Q4 2020. In terms of public announcements, U.K. operator Colt Technology Services last month said it would begin migrating toward Cisco’s Routed Optical Networking Solution.