Rahul Atri re-joins Rakuten Symphony with a focus on AI

Rahul Atri became a familiar name in the wireless world during his more than three years working for Rakuten Mobile and Rakuten Symphony. But he left Rakuten about two years ago to join Tech Mahindra.

Speaking with Fierce Wireless recently, Atri said he left Rakuten because Rakuten Mobile and Rakuten Symphony had reached a level of maturity, and he felt it was important to keep moving forward and learning new things, particularly on the business side. 

But he also learned that not all companies move super fast the way that Rakuten has moved. And when Rakuten CEO Mickey Mikitani reached out, asking Atri to re-join Symphony, he welcomed the opportunity. “I thought this is perfectly aligned with how I want to understand my career,” said Atri.

Rakuten Symphony has four business units — OSS; RAN; Cloud and Internet Services. Symphony is led by its President Sharad Sriwastawa.

Atri has been back at Symphony for about a month in the role of president of the OSS business unit. But his title is a bit deceiving because his group is doing a vast number of things and is really tapping into artificial intelligence (AI), which he talks about in a blog today.

He’s been inspired by Sam Altman’s work in generative AI, and he wants to bring that disruptor mindset to the telecom world. “In telecom people are in siloes,” he said. “When they see challenges like open RAN or cloud, they go back to their cocoon. These are the things as an industry we should solve. Why go to Mobile World Congress every year and not do the things we talk about?”

Symphony is in a nice position because everything it develops can be trialed in a real-world wireless network — Rakuten Mobile. “It’s great because the products we build are the one’s we’re using,” said Atri.


In terms of AI, Rakuten Mobile and Rakuten Symphony had the foresight to put everything in one massive data lake, which Atri said has been really fortuitous. In fact, the data lake also includes data from Rakuten’s e-commerce business. Others in telecom might struggle with AI because their data is in siloes.

And Symphony has developed a network intelligence controller based on AI, which it currently calls “Aiden," and it's running internal trials.

“Everyone can talk to Aiden,” said Atri. “From executives, to the head of a department, to even a fresh graduate. AI is nothing if people are not using it.”

He said machine learning operations have been around for a while. But the latest AI programming models can be trained much faster to digest and understand the complete telecom library.

“Are we 100% there?” he said. “No. But I’m sure we’re very ahead of other companies. AI was always thought to be a tough thing. With GenAI coming in, everyone can talk to it. People are interacting.”

AI use cases

In terms of use cases for AI in the telecom network, Atri said operators are thinking about “dynamic short services” where a user expresses an intent or a request and the network delivers it. Rather than having humans work with hundreds of applications, Aiden will be able to connect the necessary dots.

Symphony’s first big customer was 1&1 Network in Germany. The company is also helping AT&T roll out physical sites on its network. And it’s helping Dish Wireless with telemetry, ticket management and closed loop automation.