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MWC 2019: The Cisco and Nokia tech behind Rakuten’s mobile network

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(Image: Corinne Reichert/ZDNet)

Japanese online marketplace Rakuten has made the surprise announcement that it will be launching its own mobile network in just eight months, thanks to hardware and software from tech giants Cisco and Nokia.

The Rakuten Mobile Network, which will launch in October, will be the first fully virtualised, cloud-based mobile network in the world.

Speaking with ZDNet at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2019 in Barcelona, Cisco global director of Mobility and 5G Bob Everson said the rollout will utilise his company’s virtualisation architecture.

“They have a really nice approach,” he said.

“It’s a greenfield build, it’s brand new, so they have the benefit of being able to decide how they want to do this from scratch, and so a very innovative approach where it’s all a completely virtualised, cloud-based network.”

Cisco, which also announced its Unified Domain Center (UDC) at MWC as “the bridge between DNA and mobile”, is lending its routing and switching hardware, software, and services across its cloud, IT, and service provider portfolios to the Rakuten build-out.

The networking giant is also providing its experts from engineering, security, operations, and multi-vendor systems integration.

Once deployed, the network will include a fully virtualised network with multi-access edge computing; software-defined networking; centralised and regional datacentre capabilities; and full service and infrastructure automation.

Rakuten Mobile Network CTO Tareq Amin said his company’s network will be “software powered and automated from top to bottom”.

“With this design approach we mapped out with Cisco and a careful selected vendor ecosystem, we believe we can offer high-value services at more affordable costs, helping our customers to share the true benefits of cloud innovation,” Amin said.

According to the Amin, this virtualised, cloud-based approach is going to save his company at least 35 percent in opex compared to traditional mobile carriers.

“Normally, RAN is somewhat of a monolithic system that’s deployed out there with the software and hardware integrated, and as we move towards virtualisation, the industry is refining a path to get there,” Everson explained.

“It’s a completely virtualised network based on Cisco telco cloud, Cisco orchestration.”

Read also: MWC 2019: Google Stati/on, Cisco team up for global connectivity initiative

Everson said that when Rakuten first announced its intentions to build a mobile network, many in the industry didn’t know it would work.

“Now what we’re showing is that all they have to have out at the cell site is basically the radio and the antenna equipment,” he said.

“None of the real processing happens there, and so all they need is a construction person to go out there, not the higher-level technician, but just the construction person to hang the antenna, plug it in, and it’s literally plug and play back to the network, so they plug that cable in, it goes back to the OSS and the OSS says, ‘I know you’, kicks off our orchestration system, which pushes the RAN software out to an edge cloud node — they have 4,000 edge cloud nodes, they’re all built on Cisco virtualisation technology  — pushes the software out there, brings up all the radio software, and connects to the antenna and fires up the network, and we actually have it doing it in a couple of minutes versus days of coordination.

“Rakuten is way beyond a proof of concept, it’s a real live network that they’re aggressively moving forward with.”

The mobile network will also be 5G ready, according to Cisco, with 5G-enabled IPv6 transport and mobile backhaul.

Nokia CTO: ‘Is the future of web-scales mobile networks?’

Nokia is providing the radio hardware as well as the end-to-end system integrator for Rakuten, Nokia CTO Marcus Weldon told ZDNet in an interview.

“Because they don’t have any cell sites of their own, they decided to go straight to a cloud-native RAN instead of going with the conventional one where you put the baseband at the bottom of the tower,” Weldon said.

“They lease tower space to put radios up and then backhaul, but they didn’t want to use the cabinet, the baseband, so they’ve gone for cloud native, which is a first.”

Nokia is also working with Rakuten on 5G, but he said it will all be LTE for now.

According to the CTO, the most interesting part of the Rakuten story is the transition of a web-scale company into the mobile network space.

“They’re in the radio business to allow them to complement their web platforms. So they’re a web-scale, but no web-scale has ever built a mobile network before,” he said.

“Is the future of web-scales building mobile networks? Rakuten is the first one that is a web-scale who’s building a mobile network.”

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How To Easily Find Electric Car Charging Points Near You

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Electric cars are the future of the automobile industry, with virtually every manufacturer already building electric vehicles (EVs). Many manufacturers have even gone a step further, committing to an all-EV lineup in the near future.

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Despite how quickly the industry is pivoting to EVs, range anxiety is still the biggest issue slowing down faster adoption. For example, one study showed that 1 in 5 California plug-in EV owners end up going back to gasoline-powered vehicles over range anxiety and the difficulty involved in quickly charging an EV.

If you’re a current EV owner or considering becoming one, knowing how to easily find all available EV charging points near you is an important step in easing range anxiety and enjoying your EV. Fortunately, there’s a couple of easy ways to do it.

Use Google Maps In Your Vehicle

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One of the easiest ways to find nearby EV charging stations is by using Google Maps.

Google’s in-vehicle version of Google Maps offers a number of features designed to reduce range anxiety. For longer trips, the software can help plan your route according to available charging stations, and even make recommendations on when and where you should stop for a charge.

“Now when you enter a destination that requires two or more recharge stops, algorithms in Maps will search and filter through tens to thousands of public charging stations to find the most efficient route — all in less than 10 seconds,” writes Alex Donaldson, Product Manager, Google Maps. “You can see how long each charge will take and your updated total trip time, so your final ETA will never again be a mystery.”

Unfortunately, at the time of writing, the list of EVs with Google’s software built-in is still relatively short but includes the Polestar 2 and Volvo XC40 Recharge.

Use Google Maps On Your Phone

Google Maps on Android phone

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If you don’t own one of the vehicles that have Google’s mapping software built-in, you can still use Maps on your phone to access many of the same features.

Beginning in 2019, Google started adding EV charging information into Maps, and users can now find charging locations, as well as important information about each location. For example, you can find out what kind of charging ports are supported, what charging speeds are offered, and how many stations are currently available.

“Simply search for ‘ev charging stations’ to see up to date information from networks like Chargemaster, EVgo, SemaConnect and soon, Chargepoint,” writes Donaldson. “You’ll then see how many ports are currently available, along with other helpful details, like the business where the station is located, port types and charging speeds. You’ll also see information about the station from other drivers, including photos, ratings, reviews and questions.”

Use Apple Maps

Apple Maps on an iPhone

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Similarly, Apple Maps provides an easy way to find nearby charging stations. Beginning with iOS 14, Apple added the ability to plan your route according to your vehicle and compatible charging locations.

“Electric vehicle routing adds charging stops along a planned route based on current vehicle charge and charger types,” notes Apple in the iOS 14 press release.

Thanks to Google and Apple, overcoming range anxiety has never been easier. All the information you need to plan your trip or go about your day’s activity is right at your fingertips.

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2022 Ford Ranger Splash Limited Edition returns with nature-themed color variants

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American legacy automaker Ford started rolling out the Splash Package and Splash Limited Edition for its Ford Ranger midsize pickup truck last year. Both offer a “splash” of unique, one-time-only color themes and bespoke equipment, and Ford promises to drop new Splash themes every few months.

Images: Ford Motor Co.
(more…)

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Apple CarPlay on a Tesla made possible with this hack

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Tesla might be most controversial for its misunderstood and misused self-driving features, but for a certain number of car owners, its biggest is simpler. Tesla still refuses to play ball with Apple and add support for CarPlay or even Apple Music, no matter how loud its customers clamor for it. It doesn’t seem that things will be changing soon, so a developer tried to take matters into his own hands with relative success.

Image: Tesla

Pi Power

Although initially intended to be more of an educational tool, the Raspberry Pi has become the darling of makers, hackers, and developers who need an affordable yet almost complete computer that’s the size of a credit card (but way, way thicker). It can run a variety of operating systems, including even Windows, and with some add-ons, it can do almost everything that a regular PC can and more.

Image Credit: Michał Gapiński/Twitter

That’s what Polish developer Michał Gapiński did when he set out to solve one of the biggest pain points about Tesla: its lack of support for Apple CarPlay or Music.

Image Credit: Michał Gapiński/Twitter

He installed an Android-based ROM on the single-board computer (SBC) and turned it into a Wi-Fi access point. Connecting the Tesla’s browser to the Raspberry Pi gives access to CarPlay and all its features, making it look like Apple’s in-vehicle infotainment system is actually running on Tesla’s dash. It even works with steering wheel controls

Tesla and Apple

For reasons still unknown, Tesla refuses to support even Apple Music on its cars. Both companies want full control of the software running inside vehicles, so it’s not surprising that their ideologies clash. That said, almost all carmakers today support Apple CarPlay or even just streaming from Apple Music, leaving Tesla as the odd one out.

Image Credit: Michał Gapiński/Twitter

Gapiński’s workaround is hardly ideal, but the lack of any official solution leaves people with very few options. The developer is working on refining the system, but it will always be a hack in many other ways. Gapiński promises to make it available to the public once it reaches a more decent state.

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