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Japan's Rakuten to roll out 5G services by June 2020, CEO says

Key Points
  • Japanese tech conglomerate Rakuten will roll out 5G services in June 2020, its CEO Hiroshi Mikitani tells CNBC.
  • 5G, so called because it's the fifth generation of mobile internet, promises much faster network speeds that can allow heavy-duty content like video to load more quickly on devices.
  • Rakuten plans to enter Japan's mobile phone market in October by rolling out a new 4G-enabled network before adding 5G capabilities to it.
Rakuten Inc. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Hiroshi Mikitani delivers a speech during the Rakuten Optimism 2019 on July 31, 2019 in Yokohama. Japan.
Tomohiro Ohsumi | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Japanese tech conglomerate Rakuten will roll out 5G services in June 2020, its CEO said Thursday.

5G, so called because it's the fifth generation of mobile internet, promises much faster network speeds that can allow data-heavy content like ultra-high-definition video to rapidly load on devices.

At the same time, the standard's low latency means it takes less time for one gadget to talk to another and information can be delivered almost instantly — helpful for the likes of driverless cars.

Hiroshi Mikitani, Rakuten's CEO and chairman, said the company does not have to create a brand new network to roll out 5G services.

"We are going to deploy what we call mobile edge computing. In Japan, we are going to have over 4,000 edge servers," Mikitani told CNBC's Arjun Kharpal on Thursday at the Rakuten Optimism conference in Yokohama, Japan.

Edge servers are a form of computing architecture that are said to be able to improve network efficiencies and reduce latency.

For its part, Rakuten plans to enter Japan's mobile phone market in October by rolling out a new 4G-enabled network. It will compete in the country against the likes of NTT Docomo, KDDI and SoftBank.

While traditional mobile networks rely on a large amount of expensive hardware, Rakuten claims its product will be "the world's first end-to-end fully virtualized, cloud-native mobile network."

What that means is that a lot of the components making up the network are driven by software and cloud computing. Theoretically, that implies the mobile network requires fewer physical components and, therefore, it is cheaper to build, more cost-effective and can be upgraded quickly.

"This is going to completely transform the network platform from hardware-dependent to software — which is much more flexible, much more scalable, much more economical, and will be able to provide the platform not only to Japan, but everywhere in the world," Mikitani said.

5G services will then be added to the network by June 2020, according to the company.