Nokia operates Rakuten Mobile’s virtualized core

Bhaskar Gorti, 53, has been the president of Nokia’s software business since it launched in November 2016. He’s responsible for developing Nokia’s cloud-native, multi-vendor software solutions. Gorti works out of Nokia Software’s corporate office in San Jose, California. The group accounts for about 12% of Nokia’s net sales.

“We are almost like a company within a company,” said Gorti. Nokia has its access technologies, but “on top of that we have the software business,” which handles all the operational functions to provision, orchestrate and assure networks. “If you take an operator, they may have multiple vendors that provide access technologies, but they have a unified BSS system or customer experience system,” said Gorti.

Yesterday, Nokia said it will operate Rakuten Mobile’s virtualized core network.

RELATED: Rakuten builds a greenfield wireless network in Japan

Nokia has been one of Rakuten’s named vendors ever since the Japanese company starting naming vendors about a year ago. But details about Nokia’s role have been sparse. Initially, the parties said Nokia would provide deployment of the new radio network with Nokia remote radio heads connected to Nokia cloud RAN software. They also announced last year that Rakuten would deploy Nokia’s AirGile cloud-native core.

Yesterday, Nokia said it is supporting over 160 virtual network functions (VNFs) across Rakuten Mobile’s two main data centers (also known as its “telco cloud”). Nokia referred to this data center work as a “managed services deal.”

“We have our own NFVI [network functions virtualization infrastructure] and our own orchestration,” said Gorti. “We are the pure software layer on top of Cisco’s hardware. We are doing the end-to-end orchestration of the functions.

RELATED: Cisco installs 4,000 edge nodes for Rakuten’s wireless network

At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last year, Rakuten said it had hired Cisco to deploy 4,000 edge nodes and also to act as the primary systems integrator for Rakuten’s virtualized telco cloud.

Gorti said in Rakuten’s network, “We definitely do the radio and antenna. The baseband unit Altiostar does, which runs on a Cisco stack which connects to our radio. Then from the radio you go to the core, which is our core.”

Nokia is on the board of the O-RAN Alliance. “When Rakuten came into play, we were one of the first to open the interface called eCPRI,” said Gorti. “We’ve been promoting open RAN quite aggressively. We see this as something that is going to evolve.”