NTT Docomo forms 5G consortium in Thailand

Japanese mobile phone operator NTT Docomo is joining forces with twelve other leading tech firms to establish a 5G consortium in Thailand.

Members of the consortium will leverage NTT Docomo’s Open Radio Access Network (O-RAN) to provide users with high-speed 5G services, such as Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB), Ultra Reliable Low Latency Communications (URLLC), and Massive Machine Type Communications (mMTC).

Members of this consortium include Japanese heavyweight companies Fujitsu, NEC Corporation, NTT’s subsidiaries NTT Communications, NTT Data Institute of Management Consulting, and Thailand-based IT company Loxley.

The group’s target client base will be manufacturing and construction companies based in Thailand.

The consortium plans to launch commercially in 2022 after demonstration tests succeed in Thailand in the second half 2021. There are also plans to branch out of Thailand and expand its services into other markets in the Asia Pacific region where digital transformation efforts are needed.

Rakuten to roll out 5G for Ligado Networks

Rakuten Mobile has bagged a deal from Ligado Networks to design a private 5G network.

This network will use the Japanese operator’s customisable platform, something which Rakuten brings as a key ingredient in designing next-gen networks, based on the Rakuten Communications Platform (RCP).

Ligado is currently a network operator of mobile satellite service (MSS) to government and commercial customers across North America. The Reston, Virginia-based company is enhancing its MSS offerings and developing new, innovative 5G services for enterprise customers across the public safety, manufacturing, agriculture, and other critical infrastructure sectors.

Both the companies announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) where they will collaborate to create a blueprint for Ligado’s 5G mobile private network solution that leverages RCP. As per the MoU, the companies will commence efforts in Q1 2021 with ecosystem partners and vendors to establish a timeline for the implementation of network trials and blueprint for solutions.

With this MoU, Rakuten Mobile and Ligado Networks aim to accelerate the delivery of private networks through the use of open technology. RCP combines the proven technologies and expert playbook of the world’s first end-to-end cloud native, software-centric, Open RAN based mobile network of Rakuten Mobile and its partners to offer enterprises a way to easily build and deploy fully cloud native network services at speed and low-cost.

Ligado’s licensed mid-band spectrum supports enterprises by building mobile networks that meet their requirements for availability, coverage and flexibility for indoor and outdoor deployments.

“With 5G being introduced by mobile network operators around the world, some of the most innovative use-cases will be in 5G mobile private networks. 5G brings ultra-low latency and ultra-high bandwidth enabling unprecedented experiences and services and unique applications in private networks.” commented Tareq Amin, CTO of Rakuten Mobile.

Rakuten unveiled its RCP plans late last year and since its launch has been sewing up partnerships with software ecosystem providers such as Tech Mahindra. The platform is a combination of the operator’s various technical and intellectual property that it’s using to construct its software-centric network in Japan. The RCP model is focused on mobile operators, enterprises interested in private networks, and governments.

For 5G mobile private networks, Ligado’s vision is to offer connectivity dedicated to enterprise customers allowing a single company to manage the connection of people and things as they move within and across their various locations. 5G mobile private networks deliver continuity of coverage, local compute and connectivity integration, and greater control and security.

These attributes are essential to support rapidly advancing digital use cases, such as AR/VR, smart robotics and enterprise cloud services, which provide the technology foundation for critical infrastructure entities with large footprints like factories, energy and resource operations, farms, and public utilities.

Rakuten began demonstrating the RCP platform kast year and Rakuten CEO Hiroshi Mikitani had said that it reduces capex for mobile operators by 40 per cent and opex by 30 per cent.

 

SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son to step down as chairman

Masayoshi Son, billionaire founder of Japanese technology empire SoftBank, is stepping down from his role as chairman of the company.

The announcement came after a two-year deliberation where SoftBank said in a press statement that such a decision was necessary to “pass on the strengths of its current management system to future generations” and “achieve sustainable growth as a listed company”.

Current CEO Ken Miyauchi will replace Son as chairman, while Junichi Miyakawa will take over as President and CEO. Miyauchi has been with SoftBank since 1984, and is one of Son’s longest-serving lieutenants, having significantly contributed to the growth of some of Japan’s most widely-used telco and social media platforms including Y! Mobile and LINE Mobile.

Miyakawa, on the other hand, is currently CTO of SoftBank. He was previously Technical COO at Sprint Corporation (now known as T-Mobile U.S.).

One of the wealthiest men in Japan, Son is credited as the principal founder of SoftBank in 1981, which is now one of the country’s leading telcos. He is ranked by Forbes as one of the most powerful people in the world.

Son is also the main driver behind SoftBank’s iconic Vision Fund, a tech-focused venture capital that has invested in over 80 companies across Asia including Southeast Asian ride-share powerhouse Grab and workplace communication platform Slack.

Son will continue to serve as Board Director for SoftBank, effective April 1, 2021.

AT TOKYO to open new data center in 2023

Japanese data center company AT TOKYO announced the launch of a new data center in Tokyo which will commence operations in 2023.

 Named Chuo Center #3 (CC3), the data center will be located within Tokyo’s 23 Wards, special municipalities that are at the center of Tokyo’s Metropolitan area. The facility will be approximately 32,000 square meters with five server room floors.

Upon completion, this new urban-type data center will provide businesses in Japan with added value and boost their infrastructure transformation in Japan’s highly digitalised society.

Construction is expected to complete in September 2023, and operation inauguration is expected to be in October 2023.

Japanese data center market: one of Asia’s most valuable

The data center market in Japan is one of the largest in the Asia Pacific region, and according to advisory and intelligence firm Arizton, it is likely to continue growing at a CAGR of over 3% from 2020-2025.

As of 2020, the Japanese cloud services market is estimated to value at around $6 billion. Japan’s long-standing reputation as one of Asia’s main financial hubs means significant investments from the biggest colocation service providers, including AT TOKYO, NTT, and Equinix.

With the country currently still battling COVID-19, digitalisation in Japan has become more crucial than ever. In February 2020, the Japanese government appointed the services of cloud computing giant AWS to build a government cloud infrastructure for human resource and document management.

AT TOKYO currently has six data centers across Japan, with two in Osaka and four in Tokyo.

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ATMs at Japan’s Lawson Bank to accept SBI Remit’s international money transfer

International remittance services provider SBI Remit Corporation and Lawson Bank, said that ATMs at Japan’s Lawson Bank will accept SBI Remit’s international money transfer service.

SBI Remit is the largest money transfer provider in Japan with over 10 billion Japanese yen monthly, with 90 per cent of its customers being foreigners living in Japan, the company said in a statement.

Through the partnership with Lawson Bank, its customers can use the “Remit Card” to make international money transfers 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and at more than 13,400 Lawson Bank ATMs, according to SBI Holdings.

The ATMs are located in Lawson convenience stores throughout Japan and offer an international money transfer service that allows customers to send money to more than 220 countries and regions around the world in as little as 10 minutes.”

SBI Remit can be used to send money to students abroad, to send living expenses to family members, or to send money to a local agent if users do not have a bank account abroad.

In a letter published on Ripplenet, SBI remit’s customers would be enabled to benefit from Lawson’s ATM network without even holding an account with the bank. The users are just required to have SBI’s “remit card” to utilize Lawson’s quality remittance services through its 13,400 ATMs.

The Lawson bank offers its services in 220 countries so, Bank’s scope will also enable customers to make transactions all over the world at any time or day of the week including on public holidays as well. The network only takes 10 minutes to perform the transaction no matter how far the two dealing parties are.

Nokia continues 5G, cloud partnership with Japan’s SoftBank

Nokia has announced that Japanese telecommunications conglomerate SoftBank has selected their 5G Core software to enable the launch of Softbank’s standalone 5G services.

Nokia’s 5G Core is developed around cloud-native and DevOps principles, which is expected to benefit SoftBank users by delivering higher connectivity, scalability, and bandwidth, all with lower latency.

“Nokia 5G Core’s near-zero-touch automation capabilities, high-level operational efficiencies, scale and performance will help SoftBank deliver advanced services and experience, and boost network reliability,” said John Lancaster-Lennox, Head of Market Unit Japan at Nokia.

SoftBank will also be leveraging two of Nokia’s cloud offerings, Cloud Mobility Manager and Cloud Mobile Gateway, to support the company’s 5G rollout.

“We are pleased to be expanding our relationship with Nokia as we enable fast and reliable 5G service for our subscribers. This 5G core solution will catapult us into the next phase of our 5G transition,” said Keiichi Makizono, Senior Vice President and CIO of SoftBank.

The new partnership will aim to support new use cases, virtual and augmented reality, fixed wireless access, video surveillance and analytics, cloud robotics, and connected vehicles.

By Jie Yee Ong, Tech Reporter

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Image Credit: The Bruneian

Equinix invests $55 million in Osaka data center

Data center giant Equinix has announced plans to invest $55 million on the construction of a data center in Osaka, Japan.

The data center is set to be the company’s third International Business Exchange (IBX) facility, named OS3.

Osaka’s rising digital and financial hub

Home to many innovative startups, Osaka is fast becoming Japan’s newest digital and financial center.

“With the rising adoption of digital transformation, together with the acceleration of advanced technology such as AI and IoT, we are expecting a strong growth of demand for digital infrastructure in Japan, despite the short-term economy slowdown amid COVID-19,” said Mimei Ito, Research Manager for IT Services at IDC Japan.

Osaka ranks just behind Tokyo in terms of concentration of businesses in the country, with many firms in the region involved in important sectors such as energy, financial services, medical services, and manufacturing.

The expansion of the Equinix data center in Osaka reflects a rapid increase in the deployment of digital workloads among enterprises and their customers in Japan’s second-largest metropolitan area, which is expected to accelerate further through enhanced interconnectivity of cloud ecosystems.

“As a large metropolitan area with many global and locally based enterprises, Osaka has emerged as a significant market. In the past years, we have seen rising demand for secure, high-performance, and low-latency connectivity in the Kansai area,” said Kuniko Ogawa, Managing Director of Equinix Japan.

OS3’s establishment is hoped to contribute greatly to the digital ecosystem in the region, offering close proximity to major internet and peering exchanges along with low latency connections to nearby major cities such as Kyoto and Kobe.

“With our planned OS3 IBX data center, backed by our global footprint and vast array of services offered on Platform Equinix, we are set to expand our ability to bring together and interconnect the infrastructure that businesses need to fast-track their digital advantage,” Ms. Ogawa continued.

Expanding connectivity

OS3 will integrate Equnix’s interconnectivity solution, Equinix Fabric, to allow businesses to connect between their own distributed infrastructure and any other company’s cloud infrastructure.

“The expansion of the Equinix data center in Osaka reflects a rapid increase in the deployment of digital workloads among enterprises and their customers in Japan’s second-largest metropolitan area. This is expected to accelerate further through enhanced interconnectivity of cloud ecosystems,” said Ms. Ito.

The first phase of the facility is expected to be approximately 33,000 square feet wide, providing over 900 cabinets of storage space. When completed, it will have up to 2,500 cabinets in a 89,340 square feet space.

Jeremy Deutsch, President of Equinix Asia-Pacific, commented: “Our expansion in Osaka marks another key milestone in our ongoing plans to deliver Platform Equinix to more businesses in the fast-growing Asia-Pacific region. With our world-class infrastructure and solutions, we will continue to be the trusted partner of digital leaders by enabling them to seize the opportunity with agility, speed and confidence.”

Equinix’s two existing IBX data centers in Osaka currently host content for over 130 companies in a 64,500 square feet colocation space.

Earlier this year, Equinix announced a US$1 billion joint venture with GIC to develop and operate hyperscale data centers in Japan. The three initial facilities, one in Osaka and two in Tokyo, will serve the unique core workload deployment needs of a targeted group of hyperscale companies, including the world’s largest cloud service providers.

By Jie Yee Ong, Tech Reporter

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Japan won’t join United States in plan to bar China from telecoms networks

Japan has told the United States that they will not join Washington’s plan to bar Chinese firms from telecommunications networks.

Japan will reportedly take its own steps to respond in case there are worries over security issues, while Tokyo will continue cooperate with the United States on a resolution, according to the Yomiuri newspaper.

The US State Department published an update to the “Clean Network” plan in August, calling for telecom companies, cloud service providers, and mobile apps of Chinese origin like TikTok to be kept out of the United States. The United States is also pressing allies to bar Huawei from next generation 5G mobile phone networks on security grounds.

US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, mentioned the “Clean Network” plan when he met Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi in Tokyo in October, the Yomiuri said.

Japan told the United States that Tokyo cannot join a framework which excludes a specific nation but will reconsider if there is any change to the current US plan.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato, the top Government spokesman, responded to the Yomiuri report by saying his understanding was there was no exchange of views on the “Clean Network” plan during the meeting between Pompeo and Motegi, but the US explained its overall cybersecurity efforts.

“Our nation wants to continue to strengthen cooperation in the area of cybersecurity with the US,” said Secretary Kato during a news conference on Friday 16 October.

Japan will also take steps to secure cybersecurity safety by reducing supply chain risks when procuring information and communication equipment, he said.

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Former Equinix and Facebook staff at Digital Edge partner with Stonepeak to commit $1bn for a new diversified data center platform in Asia Pacific

Digital Edge and Stonepeak Infrastructure Partners have committed US$1 billion to form a new diversified, independent data center platform.

Digital Edge is a group of seasoned senior executives formerly with Equinix, Facebook, Tata Communications and Macquarie who will focus on acquiring and developing carrier-neutral data centers across Asia Pacific.

“We are very excited to partner with Stonepeak and to have completed the initial capacity acquisitions to fulfill our vision of bridging the digital divide in the Asia-Pacific region,” said Samuel Lee, the CEO of Digital Edge who previously served as President of Equinix’s Asia Pacific business from 2005 to 2019.

Headquartered in Singapore, Digital Edge announced the closing of two initial investments in Japan-based data centers, a key market for the new data center company.

“The transactions in Tokyo and Osaka give the platform a dual footprint offering to customers in Japan’s two primary data center markets,” added Mr. Lee.

The potentially disruptive data center company aims to deliver innovative data center and interconnect solutions in order to make customer deployments easy in complex, evolving environments.

Digital Edge will develop a 12 MW facility in central Osaka in partnership with Keihanshin Building Co. and Kanden Energy Solution Co., Inc. The data center in Tokyo is a strategic partnership with ITOCHU Techno-Solutions Corporation, which will begin with their Mejirozaka Data Center.

“The Asia Pacific digital infrastructure market is among the fastest growing in the world, with demand continuing to outpace supply,” said Brian McMullen, the Senior Managing Director at Stonepeak, an infrastructure-focused private equity firm.

Stonepeak is the majority owner of Cologix, a leading carrier-neutral data center platform in North America, which recently announced the acquisition of vXchnge’s 16,000 square foot data center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. 

Stonepeak has also established a presence in Asia Pacific over the past three years with investments across multiple sectors, including this one with Digital Edge.

“We are delighted to partner with Samuel and his team, who bring unparalleled experience and an exceptional track record of development, and are investing in Digital Edge to help us achieve our shared vision for the region,” added Mr. McMullen.

Samuel Lee is also joined at Digital Edge by a long list of senior executives and key data center players, including his prior senior team at Equinix:

  • Kei Furuta, former Managing Director for North Asia at Equinix
  • Andrew Rigoli, former VP of Corporate Development and Strategy and Interim General Manager for Singapore and Southeast Asia at Equinix
  • Jonathan Chou, former VP of Corporate Development for Asia Pacific at Equinix
  • Jay Park, former vice president of data center design engineering at Facebook 
  • John Freeman, former Chief Legal and Compliance Officer at Tata Communications
  • Jonathan Walbridge, former Managing Director of Macquarie

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Image credit: Digital Edge

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Toyota and Amazon Web Services partner to build cloud-based mobility services

Toyota and Amazon Web Services (AWS) have announced they are expanding their global collaboration to build a cloud-based platform.

Japan’s automotive manufacturer and Amazon’s cloud computing unit will develop Toyota’s Toyota’s Mobility Services Platform (MSPF) for the next generation of data-driven mobility services in their cloud-connected vehicles.

“Connectivity drives all of the processes of development, production, sales and service in the automotive business,” said Shigeki Tomoyama, the Chief Information and Security Officer as well as Chief Production Officer at Toyota Motor Corporation.

The collaboration with AWS will extend to Toyota’s entire enterprise, building a foundation for streamlined, secure data sharing and accelerate its move to Connected, Autonomous, Shared and Electric (CASE) mobility technologies.

“Expanding our agreement with AWS to strengthen our vehicle data platform will be a major advantage for CASE activities within Toyota,” added Mr. Tomoyama.

The new platform will enable Toyota to collect data from connected vehicles to influence design and development as well as new services like behavior-based insurance, maintenance notifications, and ride or car sharing.

“Toyota is able to innovate quickly across its enterprise and continue to lead the automotive industry in delivering the quality of experiences that customers expect,” said Andy Jassy, the CEO of AWS.

The deal by AWS marks the e-commerce giant’s newest move into the transportation industry following last month’s partnership announcement with Volkswagen to build cloud platforms where business customers can buy and sell industrial applications.

AWS is also partnered up with automotive suppliers and providers like Aptiv, Panasonic Corp. Nvidia Corp., Uber and Avis.

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