Interview date: September 29, 2023

The true desire behind “leading the evolution of the power to connect.”

KDDI xG Networks was born in 2019 as a joint venture between KDDI, a telecommunications company known for its au brand, and CTC, a leading SIer.
KDDI xG Networks is engaged in the development and operation of next-generation communications, known as 5G SA, to create “a mobile network that connects all people and all things.”

What is the current stage of KDDI xG Networks, now in its fifth year of operation?
And what is the meaning behind the vision of “leading the evolution of the power to connect”?
We asked Takashi Kikuchi, President and CEO, and Masayuki Sakai, Executive Vice President.

Left: Takashi Kikuchi, President and CEO
Takashi Kikuchi started his career at KDD. (now KDDI). Mainly engaged in the development of telecommunication systems, he served as Deputy General Manager of the Mobile Technology Division in 2020, and was appointed as Director and CTO of KDDI xG Networks, Inc. in 2021. He then became President and Representative Director of KDDI xG Networks, Inc. in April 2023, where he remains to this day.

Right: Masayuki Sakai, Former Director and Vice President
Joined ITOCHU TECHNO-SCIENCE Corporation (currently ITOCHU TECHNO-SOLUTIONS Corporation), in charge of sales of server infrastructure systems in collaboration with SIer (partner), transferred to the department that accounts for KDDI in 2004, as a sales manager from 2013, responsible for customer management system, optical line Design System, Service System, RCS, etc. From 2018, he has been in charge of telecommunication equipment for mobile and involved in the establishment of KDDI xG Networks, Inc. and was appointed as Executive Vice President of the company in December 2019, and retired in March 2024.

To implement 5G SA faster than others.

――Could you tell us once again how KDDI xG Networks (hereafter xGN) came into being?

Kikuchi:We wanted to implement “5G SA (Stand Alone)” in the world as soon as possible with a new approach that was not an extension of the past. In a word, that’s it.

As you know, the mainstream of mobile communication services has evolved to the 5th generation mobile communication system (5G) starting in 2020.

Until now, the 5G NSA (Non-Stand Alone) system. As the term “Not Stand Alone” suggests, 5G is simply a combination of the system for 4G LTE and 5G.

Sakai:So, in fact, we were not able to realize all the potential of 5G.

We were able to achieve high-speed mass communication, but we were unable to achieve “multiple connections” that can connect many terminals in a single area or “low latency” that can send data without delay. In addition, Network slicing can only be available in 5G SA.

――That’s right. xGN was established to create the infrastructure to realize full-scale 5G services.

Kikuchi:That is correct. The realization of this 5G SA service required not an existing system, but a new system standardized with a new architecture based on cloud-native systems. In addition, we needed to work on speeding up development, internalizing virtualization, and NW technologies, and upgrading operations, etc. We needed a new framework to confront these issues.

Sakai:We believed that if KDDI and CTC collaborated, we could solve the problem. To make the organization more agile, we decided to establish a completely new organization as a joint venture between each of us, rather than simply CTC being a part of KDDI.
We established xGN as an independent organization that was not restricted by the parent company’s limitations in terms of business structure, customs, or scale, and that could work with a high speed and high quality of work.

――This year, four years after its birth, 5G SA is finally in service.

Sakai:It was finally ……, though (laughs).
What I think made xGN’s special challenge successful was the realization of DevOps, in which development and operations staff work closely together to develop the systems. This is a style not often implemented by telecommunications carriers. As a result, we were able to proceed with speedy and flexible system development.

Kikuchi:That’s right.
KDDI and CTC are not only joined together, but we hoped to develop a entirely new organization that would abandon the existing way of operation. I believe that we have finally been able to show the result of this effort.

Make your time here an incomparable experience.

――This year you announced “Vision 2030.” What are your aims?

Kikuchi:We have stated that we would disrupt the traditional way and establish a new organization, and we wished to set up a flag or a kind of North Star to show “what kind of organization we would establish.” It is also the vision that we have developed together with the involvement of all of us.

Sakai:Specifically, we have decided to “create new value and lead the evolution of the power of connect through the challenge of continuous change.”

――What kind of thoughts do you have in mind?

Kikuchi:“The challenge of constant change” includes our desire to keep in mind our original intention.
We wished to keep in mind first, “We are a continuously challenging group, aren’t we?”
We stated that to keep creating new things, the mindset of challenge must be ongoing and never stop.

――What about the “creating new value” part?

Kikuchi:Our goal is to create value, not just to challenge ourselves. We also hope to continue to create new value not only for KDDI, our direct business partner, but also for end-users.

Sakai:Once 5G SA penetrates the market, various services will be launched and become a part of society. We also expressed our desire to be an integral part of the infrastructure.

――Vision ends with “Leading the Evolution of the Power to Connect.”

Sakai: In fact, this is where KDDI’s Vision 2030 comes in. KDDI’s vision is to create a society where everyone can realize their dreams by evolving the “power of connection.” This is KDDI’s vision. We hope to be a leader in the “evolution of the power of connection” even though we are a subsidiary. I know it sounds cheeky, but that’s how we hope to be.

Kikuchi:It is really our, xGN’s, role to actually realize it. It may sound insistent, but this is a statement created by all of us. The vision we have for the company is now somewhat more challenging. (laughs).

――Now that the vision is clear and four years have passed, do you see the “color” or “character” of xGN?

Sakai:Clearly, since the beginning of the start-up, we have been able to see it. While the scale of the company is smaller than each other’s parent companies, we have a group of talented people. On top of that, they are working day by day to develop a new infrastructure with a new organization and in a new way, while taking on challenges speedily.

Kikuchi:I feel that because the company is young and not yet large, it exudes a lively and fun atmosphere. xGN has its own special challenges, hardships, and pleasures that neither KDDI nor CTC can offer.

Sakai:Compared to the two parent companies, I believe that the closeness of the employees is also a great experience for each of the employees. If you look to the side, you’ll see a mix of engineers skilled in infrastructure development and engineers with deep knowledge of telecommunications, and application engineers knowledgeable about cutting-edge technologies.

Kikuchi:The concentrated atmosphere of people with various skills may be confusing at first – but I am sure that it will definitely become a priceless time and place for our lives and careers.

――You are now in the phase of upgrading the launched service through operation. It will be a real challenge for you.

Sakai:I am looking forward to it. We will continue to upgrade our organization and systems. By the way, the name of our company, “xGN,” was given to express the variable numbers counting, like 5G and 6G. We are not a temporary organization, but rather, we will continue to evolve.

Kikuchi:We also hope to lead the power to connect and the bright future of Japan and the world beyond that.