Tareq Amin out at Rakuten Mobile and Symphony

High profile Rakuten Mobile CTO and Symphony CEO is out.

Tareq Amin has left his role Rakuten Symphony and Rakuten Group. A statement from the company said that Rakuten Group CEO Mickey Mikitani would take over as CEO of Rakuten Symphony. The statement said that Sharad Sriwastawa will act as its Acting President to “lead the company and advance its commercial interests”.

Sriwastawa, already CTO of Rakuten Mobile, will also act as co-CEO of the operator business, as well as assuming active leadership of Symphony. The PR statement said, “Mikitani will draw on his position as Chairman and CEO of the Rakuten Group to drive Rakuten Symphony forward as it moves into its next phase of continued growth by maximizing group synergies. A proven leader with extensive experience in the field of telecom, Sriwastawa assumes the roles and responsibilities previously held by former Representative Director and CEO Tareq Amin, who departed the company on August 7, 2023.”

Amin was Rakuten Mobile’s launch CTO from 2018, then in August 2021 added the role of CEO of Rakuten Symphony, the business Rakuten formed to commercialise its network technology stack.

Starting as Rakuten Mobile CTO he then added the role of CEO, and then latterly Symphony CEO, Amin was a high profile industry figure who was a strong proponent of the benefits of Open RAN, describing open networks as a foundation for the introduction of cloud native, automated network operations. He also claimed that an open, cloud native network platform could reduce deployment and operational costs by 40%. In his time as CTO/CEO, Rakuten bought two companies that were also its key vendors: its vRAN provider Altiostar and its cloud management software provider Robin.io.

These companies were blended into Rakuten Symphony, as the company looked to externalised its offer of a cloud-native, Open RAN platform for other operators. Rakuten’s technical deployment gained many admirers but the operator itself had struggled to establish itself as a commercial success within the competitive Japanese mobile market. Symphony is an attempt to leverage the technical know-how that Rakuten had gained during its own deployment, offering a cloud-based platform for operators deploying Open RAN networks.

New entrant 1&1 has been its highest profile customer, although it has faced rollout delays as it struggled to secure towers and sites on which to deploy. In October 2022 in comments to journalists at FYUZ, Amin described the company as “already a unicorn” by valuation – a valuation he said he would share the justification for soon. Symphony, he said, was on the cusp of announcing operator deals, including brownfield deals, that would prove it. The company has not announced a major operator brownfield deal so far in 2023.

Snap departure? Amin’s LinkedIn profile still listed him as CEO at Rakuten Mobile and Symphony, as of Monday 7 August.

There was no explanation for Amin’s departure, and no word of thanks for his role in establishing Rakuten Mobile and Symphony.

  • UPDATE: A statement provided to TMN by Rakuten’s PR team said:”After helping Rakuten to successfully establish the world’s first end-to-end fully virtualized cloud-native mobile network, Tareq has decided to depart the company due to personal reasons.”

In the prepared press announcement Mikitani said that Sriwastawa was now the man to “guide the company’s expansion, capitalize on our business momentum, and solidify its future as an industry-disrupting enterprise.” Amin’s most recently posts on LinkedIn included a repost of an OpenSignal report praising the operators progress in its network service.

He wrote, “The recent OpenSignal report is a validation point that a software based, cloud first, open ran network has met and exceeded quality objectives in a highly competitive market in Japan.

“I want to extend my gratitude and appreciation to all our employees for their unwavering dedication and hard work in driving innovation and achieving recognition.”

Amin’s departure will test the public profile of Rakuten Symphony’s push to establish itself as a provider and integrator of Open RAN technology. He has been viewed as the face of the company, as well as guiding its technical strategy and M&A activity.

His replacement, Sriwastawa, joined Rakuten Mobile in September 2018, and was promoted to 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.

Prior to the CTO role, Sriwastawa served as the Head of Connectivity Platforms, “constructing and industrialising cloud-native RAN” according to Rakuten’s statement.