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How Rakuten Symphony is making a Difference in Telecom Sustainability…

Anna Khoruzhaya
Head of Sustainability
Rakuten Symphony
December 13, 2022
minute read

Being a software telecom provider offering solutions based on Open RAN, cloud and automation, our technology is designed to minimize operational resources and be more adaptable to future challenges.

We have redefined how telecom networks are built and operated. By focusing on making design decisions that create a leaner telecom and improving the lifecycle of mobile networks, we have seen encouraging efficiency benefits. These benefits have led us to consider how we can further drive sustainability more actively. Which is where we find ourselves now, with sustainability becoming a central guiding principle for Rakuten Symphony.

It is time we step up to face a new challenge: our next innovation sprint will be dedicated towards sustainability and addressing climate change (i.e., energy consumption reduction). Looking back on how much progress in Open RAN we have achieved in under five years, we are hopeful of playing a significant role in redefining sustainability in telecoms and driving further change in the industry.

Approaching sustainability differently

Sustainability cuts across the whole organization and even spreads beyond industry boundaries. Connectivity is a right for everybody, and the UN has stated that improved connectivity, not urban migration, is the best way to help people in the world’s rural areas develop. Thus, sustainability could become a driving factor in the telecom industry.

Though my team collectively comes from diverse backgrounds and has an average age of only 28, what brought us all together is our passion for change and our vision to approach sustainability differently. Rakuten Symphony has a track record – that has been proven to be effective – of bringing perspectives from other industries and areas of expertise to solve challenges that the telecom industry has been facing for years. Similarly to how we have changed the mobile industry despite being a new entrant, we also aim to change how the industry approaches sustainability. Technical innovation focusing on energy savings in the network is not new – as the Open RAN “dream” was not new five years ago – nevertheless, more breakthroughs are currently necessary in the industry.

Sustainability is something that Rakuten Symphony or individual companies cannot tackle alone. Instead, we can create a significant impact through solid partnerships and collective efforts with like-minded companies.

"A key reason for slow progress has been the need for a standardized measuring and monitoring approach to emissions."
-Anna Khoruzhaya, Head of Sustainability and VP, Sales Planning and Go-to-Market, Rakuten Symphony

Recently, I have been playing with the following thought experiment with my partner: what if all companies agreed to stop any new R&D and developments and instead streamlined all resources into innovation on environmental and social problems collectively? For example, in the last two years, the world has had to stop and re-shift its focus to countering Covid-19 together. Shouldn’t fighting climate change be of the same importance? It is not a choice of if we face this challenge, but how quickly we can act together.

A key reason for slow progress has been the need for a standardized measuring and monitoring approach to emissions. This is critical since we cannot change what we cannot see. Therefore, an enhanced level of data transparency is at the core of our mission to become a leader in establishing best-in-class sustainability practices. As such, we see a real-time dynamic visualization of energy consumption per network element as one of the first challenges to tackle to identify areas for greater efficiency.

Ultimately, it comes down to technological and operational solutions to enable energy efficiency in the network without compromising customer experience. The initial focus for energy savings in Open RAN is on the network components where the savings are highest, emphasizing the autonomous optimizations that are faster to attain. Gradually, we aim to expand and adapt the solutions to other network components and assess more advanced, centralized network-wide solutions based on energy telemetry combined with policies and intelligence. Future technology will reshape how energy is consumed in Open RAN telecom networks.

Innovation, improvement and inspiration

At Rakuten Symphony, we organized ourselves around three key pillars – innovation, improvement and inspiration – to drive our sustainability strategy. Throughout 2023, expect to learn more about energy efficiency solutions in Open RAN, challenges in scope 3 emission calculations and related supply chain hurdles to overcome, digital inclusion, equity, and many more topics that we are passionate about.

Can Rakuten Symphony make a difference? Unfortunately, we cannot predict the future. However, I am hopeful that our approach targeting collective efforts rather than continuing to operate in individual silos will raise sustainability standards within the industry. As the telecom value chain is very complex and far from transparent, we must create system-wide solutions to solve system-wide problems.

We can make sustainability a battleground of competitive advantage, or we can choose to be open and finally make real progress on sustainability in the telco industry.

The time to act is now; we must be open and working together to build a better tomorrow.

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