RIFEE, Loonshots, ONAP

First let me explain the first two terms and then describe the connection to ONAP.


RIFEE is my term that means Rakuten's Infrastructure for Everyone Else.

There's tremendous buzz about how an IT company is aggressively jumping into mobile connectivity by building a cloud-native 5G-ready network, and in doing so outflanking traditional telcos on technology. I believe many mobile operators are asking themselves, privately I'm sure, how they can have an infrastructure just like Rakuten's, and how they can build a solution with the same speed.

In a TelecomTV interview, Tareq Amin, CTO Rakuten Mobile Network (along with Manish Singh from Tech Mahindra), talks about how they are working to achieve such an aggressive goal. It's worth a listen.

I have two suggestions on RIFEE. One is non-technical by adopting ideas from the Loonshots book. The other is technical by taking advantage of the Linux Foundation Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP) project.


Loonshots is a book by Safi Bahcall where he explores "how to nurture the crazy ideas that win wars, cure diseases, and transform industries." This is an interesting book that states that structure rather than culture is the reason innovation happens or not. An example used in the book is Nokia, a company that innovated from selling rubber boots and toilet paper in the '70s to selling half the smartphones on the planet by early 2000s. But that same company killed an internal iPhone like project along with an app store in 2004. What happened internally to create such a massive reversal? Did the culture suddenly change? Of course not. And the author argues that it was the company structure that changed and in doing so it stifled innovation.

Loonshots provides a very comforting message on the non-technical aspect of RIFEE. As a mobile operator, you should focus on structure, where it may be as straighforward as creating a new cloud-native software group in your company, to get the ball rolling. This group would have complete autonomy in terms of picking technologies, processes, and choosing vendors. This concept is obviously much simpler than trying to change your company culture.


ONAP is a network automation project under the Linux Foundation umbrella with terrific momentum. It provides classic SDN/NFV management and orchestration, but also service assurance and automation.

As a mobile operator, you can use the ONAP 5G use-case blueprint along with say OPNFV VCO 3.0 to solve the technical aspect of RIFEE. (NOTE: The 5G blueprint and VCO 3.0 are not fully ready yet, but should be by end of 2019.)

By combining Loonshots and ONAP, you can get a 5G network by end of 2019. In fact, with this approach, you can not only match RIFEE, but beat in terms of technical superiority.

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