In telecom, leadership should mean more than a race to create the boxes for the next G.
Rakuten is leading the way in challenging outdated conventions, learning from other industries, and creating the innovations required to take telecom into a new era.
Our solutions take inspiration from the hyperscale giants as opposed to other telecom players. Hyperscale giants have already solved the kinds of problems that operators increasingly need to solve: how to manage large fleets of infrastructure as one autonomous, distributed, self-healing system, and how to create platforms of operation rather than islands of specialty.
Mickey (Hiroshi) Mikitani is the founder, chairman and CEO of Rakuten Group, Inc. Founded in Japan in 1997 with the mission to contribute to society by creating value through innovation and entrepreneurship, Rakuten has grown to become one of the world's leading internet services companies.
Rakuten has a dynamic ecosystem of more than 70 services, spanning e-commerce, fintech, digital content and communications, bringing the joy of discovery to 1.7 billion members around the world.
Rakuten also became Japan’s newest mobile network operator in 2019.
In September 2017, Rakuten became the first-ever jersey partner of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors. The following month, the company became the global marketing partner and exclusive distribution partner in Japan of the NBA.
Born in Kobe, Mikitani was educated at Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo, began his career in investment banking, and earned his MBA at Harvard Business School. In 2012, he was awarded the HBS Alumni Achievement Award, one of the school’s highest honors.
Mikitani is also a recipient of the Legion of Honour, awarded by the French government in recognition of contributions to the economy and culture of France. In 2011, he was appointed Chairman of the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra, which has the longest history and tradition of any orchestra in Japan, and serves as Representative Director of the Japan Association of New Economy (JANE).
He also serves as Vice Chairman and Co-CEO of Rakuten Medical, Inc. (formerly Aspyrian Therapeutics, Inc.), a global biotechnology company developing precision, cell-targeting investigational therapies on its Alluminox™ platform.
An industry leader in telecommunications innovation, Sharad Sriwastawa is the Representative Director and Acting President of Rakuten Symphony, a Rakuten Group company spearheading the global adoption of cloud-native Open Radio Access Network (RAN) infrastructure and services.
After joining Rakuten Mobile in September 2018, Sriwastawa took the role of Chief Technology officer in March 2022, and he will take on the role of Representative Director, Co-CEO and CTO as of August 7, 2023. He was also appointed as Group Managing Executive Officer of Rakuten Group in April 2022. His stewardship is central to the development and operations of Rakuten Mobile’s fully virtualized, cloud-native mobile network based on Open RAN architecture.
Prior to the CTO role, Sriwastawa served as the Head of Connectivity Platforms, where he was the driving force behind constructing and industrializing cloud-native RAN, highlighting his unwavering commitment to openness and revolutionizing the telecommunications sector.
With a rich career spanning nearly three decades, Sriwastawa has been a transformative figure across continents. Before his tenure at Rakuten, he held positions such as Vice President of Airspan Networks Holdings, National Head of 3G at Reliance Communications, and Northeast Regional Manager for T-Mobile USA.
His career genesis at Siemens Public Communications Network in 1995 involved a contribution to building India’s first mobile network, showcasing his proclivity for innovation from the onset.
Rabih Dabboussi is Chief Business Officer of Rakuten Symphony, a new business organization within the Rakuten Group to spearhead the global adoption of cloud-native open RAN infrastructure and services. In this role, Dabboussi is responsible for bringing Rakuten Symphony’s telco solutions, including Symworld™, to operators, governments and enterprises around the world.
Dabboussi is a seasoned and highly recognized industry expert who brings more than two decades of experience in the mobile industry to Rakuten, including a 20-year progressive career at Cisco Systems in diverse roles of R&D, technology consulting, business development, and sales leadership. After assignments advising mobile operators and large enterprise customers worldwide, he became the managing director for Cisco in the UAE in 2012 until he left Cisco in 2016.
After Cisco, Rabih spent four years helping to establish startups in the areas of secure mobile communications, cyber security, and the digital transformation of governments and enterprises.
Dabboussi is multilingual in English, French and Arabic and has a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from North Carolina State University. Rabih holds multiple technology innovations and US issued patents in his name.
Raghunath Hariharan is a forward-thinking, innovation-oriented technologist with more than 25 years of experience in architecting, designing, developing and deploying telecommunication networks. He brings to the role exceptional leadership skills and thrives in solving complex problems and handling pressure situations. Raghu was instrumental in the creation of a virtualized RAN solution that has since become the standard mechanism to build and deploy modern telecommunication networks for 4G, 5G and beyond.
Previously, as CTO of Altiostar Networks (now a part of Rakuten Symphony), Raghu headed systems engineering, architecture and algorithm development for the organization. He was also one of the earliest employees of Altiostar Networks Inc., playing a pivotal role in building and establishing the company from the ground-up.
Prior to joining Altiostar, Raghu spent more than a decade at Motorola Networks, where he worked on a variety of cellular technologies from 2G to 4G and in various capacities from a developer to an architect.
Raghu has received many accolades in his career including a best paper award at IEEE-VTC and was part of the Altiostar team that recognized at the 2017 GLOMO awards for best Overall Mobile Technology and Best Technology Breakthrough for virtualized RAN. He has four granted patents with more in the pipeline.
He has a Masters degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Texas at Dallas and a Bachelor’s degree in Electronics and Telecommunication from the University of Mumbai.
Anil Sawkar is President, RAN Business Unit of Rakuten Symphony, with his previous role as President of the Network Business Function Unit at the company. Sawkar has over 25 years of experience, developing and deploying wireless and data communications systems globally, managing large Product Engineering teams in the U.S., UK and India.
Sawkar is a Bell Labs Fellow and holds multiple patents in Wireless Networking.
Previously as a Senior VicePresident of Global Engineering of Altiostar Networks (now part of Rakuten Symphony), Sawkar spear headed the development and deployment of Virtual RAN product, supporting both 4G & 5G access technologies. He was one of the earliest employees in setting the product directions for the Altiostar Network startup.
His previous work experience includes Bell Laboratories, Lucent Technologies and Alcatel-Lucent Inc. Sawkar was the Vice President at Alcatel-Lucent responsible for LTE system requirements, architecture and performance. He successfully managed multi-phased technology trials with operators in North America, Europe and Asia and the commercial launch of LTE networks with North America’s operators. Prior to that, he successfully deployed 3G-EVDO, 2.5G and 2G-3G/1X wireless networks systems across North America, Europe and Asia.
Puneet is a visionary business leader with a disruptive mindset, deep comprehension of technology, products, and operations, and an unwavering passion for catalyzing transformation within both the industry and people's lives.
He serves as the President of the OSS Business Unit at Rakuten Symphony, where his overarching ambition is to realize fully autonomous networks and revolutionize the way networks are planned, built and operated through ground breaking software products.
After joining Rakuten Mobile in 2018, Puneet took the role of Senior Vice President, Portfolio & Strategy Office and Radio Access Network Business Units. He steers a multifaceted strategic portfolio with the primary objectives of elevating the customer experience, optimizing budgets/costs, and development and industrialization of cloud-nativeRAN solutions. Puneet’s contributions have been instrumental in the establishment of Rakuten Mobile's fully virtualized, cloud-native mobile network, founded on the Open RAN architecture.
Puneet's diverse and illustrious career underscores his dedication to propelling change and revolutionizing the telecom sector. Throughout his professional journey, he has achieved significant milestones, leading impactful transformations in the 2G, 3G, and 4G business and technology realms, while working with esteemed companies such as Nokia/Alcatel Lucent and Airspan.
In addition to his professional accomplishments, Puneet strongly believes in promoting a corporate culture that values creativity, transparency, and innovation. He actively empowers his team to transcend conventional operational norms and embrace calculated risks.
He holds a master's degree in international business and is presently based in Tokyo, where he continues to drive innovation and transformation in the telecommunications industry.
Partha Seetala is the President of the Cloud Business Unit at Rakuten Symphony and formerly Founder and CEO at Robin.io. With more than 20 years of technology and product vision and expertise, he has taken multiple fully-featured products from concept to market. He has conceived, designed and built products in Scale-out distributed storage, File Systems, Networking, Distributed Systems, Big Data, and Information Analytics and Containers/Kubernetes space.
Previously he was a distinguished Engineer at Symantec’s information and storage management business, known as Veritas. In that capacity, he conceived, architected and led engineering teams to take multiple products from concept to market. He was also an adviser on multi-million-dollar product lines including NetBackup, Cluster File System, Veritas Cluster Server, and Information Fabric. He holds a Master’s Degree in Computer Science and Engineering from the University of Minnesota.
Geoff has been in the mobile communications industry for more than 30 years, beginning his career with Ericsson in 1991 and with 2G. Throughout his journey in telecom and cloud, he’s been a software engineer and led research and development, business development, network rollouts, consulting, marketing campaigns and strategic communications for his teams.
He has been embedded in AT&T, helping to catapult their Silicon Valley innovation initiatives and delivered the world’s first live global mobile sports channel with the Volvo Ocean Race Round the World Race.
Geoff also served as chief marketing officer for MobiledgeX, a startup founded by Deutsche Telekom, focusing on the mobile edge computing space.
At his core, Geoff is a software engineer with his First Class Honors bachelor’s degree in computing science. He received the computing science prize of excellence from Aston University in Birmingham, United Kingdom, with his first experience at the European Organization of Nuclear Research (CERN) writing accelerator beam control software.
Geoff is currently based in Dallas, Texas.
One example of Rakuten Symphony industry leadership is our Radio-as-a-Service offering, Symware™, a new generation of Distributed Unit that is cheaper, faster and easier to deploy and manage.
Symware™ is designed with an outdoor form factor for single person carry, zero touch provisioning, and ‘plug & play’ cabinet-free installation. It is weather hardened; bookshelf modelled and has a fan-less design to lessen the chance of failure.
Commercially, it is available on an as-a-Service basis, with hardware upgrade included, or bundled with the Rakuten Symphony software solution for the radio stack and fully automated operations out of the box. Technology advances, operating models and commercials all combine to enable Symware™ to disrupt the radio status quo, something that would not have been possible previously.
Leadership for Rakuten Symphony is not about the race for the next G. It is about knowing how to successfully run a network business as a modern digital-first business, focusing on total system performance rather than individual pieces of equipment or technology domains. Doing networks right in this context means enabling dramatically different cost performance, operational performance and technology performance. 5G (or even 6G) becomes just one item in a roadmap alongside other technology innovations from within and outside the telecom industry.
By disaggregating and virtualizing network functions, we have eliminated layers of proprietary management systems that add complexity and cost for operators.
By creating a single, unified cloud infrastructure using COTS components, we have eliminated proprietary hardware, reducing network TCO still further.
By containerizing network software, we have created a scalable, elastic network that offers automated, telco-grade resilience.
AI and machine learning are applied to network-wide data, predicting and detecting anomalies more reliably, and resolving faults 70% faster than conventional methods.
Our unique observability framework provides operators with a clear, consistent view of the status of services and underlying cloud infrastructure.
Our zero-trust security model, combined with extensive automation, ensures the most up-to-date protection against cyber threats and human error.
Using industry-standard open interfaces from 3GPP, TMForum, Open RAN Alliance, ETSI and others, we have created a flexible, future-proof foundation that gives operators more, not less, choice.
With Symworld™, we provide all of the applications needed to plan, build, deploy, operate, monitor, manage and secure a complex, multi-vendor network. A data driven platform with 50+ integrated applications that provide data into a common data lake and receive AI driven insight. Those applications sharing a common data platform, eliminates integration tax, manual processes, data duplication and fragmented software license management.
Subsets of applications can be chosen to solve specific tasks, an example being a major network operator selecting the Rakuten Symphony Observability Framework applications as their starting point.
When this platform is adopted, data driven automation is enabled for the end to end life cycle of planning, deploying, securing, monitoring and operation edge data centers, of which Rakuten can access 1,000+ today.
Data-driven, AI-enabled, Intelligent Operations is at the heart of the new generation of a low-cost, high quality telecom operator that Rakuten Symphony makes possible.
Rakuten Symphony addresses the outdated commercial structures and processes that prevent the transition to a truly modern telco.
New industry research by TM Forum shows 30-year-old procurement practices increase costs, decrease innovation and slow down business agility.
Most of the 300 CSPs and vendor participants agree that current RFP processes are not fit for the coming decade of digital transformation.
Recommendations include leveraging proof-of-concepts, embracing agile methodology, and decentralization and digitization of the procurement process.
Starting in 2018, Rakuten Mobile realized the traditional RFP procurement practice was not fit for purpose and replaced it with a partnership, rapid trial to scale model. Using this model, Rakuten Mobile now works with over 50 different suppliers, which does not create an obstacle to scaling, since all are managed through software interfaces and platform management.
In a conventional telco RFP process, the issuer over-lists all possible wanted features in case they might be useful and the suppliers reply with over compliance to maximize the chance of winning. The process takes months to years and the end result is no clearer understanding of ability to meet real needed outcomes and goals. It is a false horizon of progress. It also forces component level comparisons rather than system level possibilities. Incumbent suppliers use the RFP process as weapon to discourage change and innovation. Technical architectures have led to organizational architectures that have led to similar siloed procurement practices.
Rather than engaging at the RFP level, Rakuten Symphony focuses on the business outcomes an operator needs. This fosters a much more productive, collaborative and faster process than with the conventional approach.