The telecommunications industry is in dire need of modernization and risks being dominated by an elite minority if it refuses to change, says Rakuten Group CEO and Chairman Mickey Mikitani.
Speaking at the World Government Summit in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Mikitani emphasized that the transformation of mobile networks is a key strategic priority for Rakuten Group and is essential if telecoms is to keep pace with other, more digitalized sectors.
Speaking on day three of the Summit - which also played host to Tesla, SpaceX and Twitter CEO Elon Musk and hedge fund veteran Ray Dalio - Mikitani underlined the urgent need for wireless networks to modernise in an age where the world’s major industries are underpinned by digital technologies and cloud computing.
“Every IT platform has been transformed and is becoming more software-oriented and more cloud-oriented,” Mikitani said. “But the one major sector which has not gone through this transformation is telecom and wireless. One of Rakuten’s most important projects is transforming wireless connectivity. We have to re-optimize wireless networks; the future of wireless networks is going to be virtualized - they will work in the same way as the internet and software work together."
“Why is that? The industry is overpriced and dominated by four or five players, and there's no incentive to move forward. Look at the internet - everything is moving to the cloud. But that is not happening in mobile.”
Mikitani also warned against the dangers of closed, ‘black box’ telecom networks, and said that open standards were desperately needed in order to retain network integrity.
“Every IT platform has been transformed and is becoming more software-oriented and more cloud-oriented. But the one major sector which has not gone through this transformation is telecom and wireless. One of Rakuten’s most important projects is transforming wireless connectivity."
Drawing on his experience as founder and CEO of Rakuten, Mikitani emphasized that while wholesale industrial change can initially seem risible to a broader audience, Rakuten is determined to push through technologies and practices that change mobile connectivity for the better.
“Twenty-five years ago, many people told me that you couldn’t do banking services on a Unix server, and that they had to run on mainframes. Now, Rakuten has the largest online bank in Japan in terms of account numbers, with over 13 million accounts."
“We took on this (mobile) challenge four years ago, and because of Rakuten, industries are now starting to talk about open radio access networks. Everybody thought this was a joke five years ago when I would talk with CEOs and big-ticket companies. But we are the trailblazers of transformation.”
During Mikitani's visit to Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Hamdan discussed how Dubai can support the conglomerate in expanding its business in the UAE and the wider region with the Rakuten Group CEO. Watch the full Instagram post uploaded by the Dubai Media Office here.