2020 FierceWireless Rising Star — Rakuten Mobile's Rahul Atri

For 2020 the FierceWireless editorial team has selected a diverse slate of wireless executives who are on the rise in their careers. We’re doling out the names of our winners, two per day, so that our readers have the time to enjoy reading their profiles. Next week, we’ll post our popular Rising Stars poll, giving everyone the opportunity to vote for their favorite top executive to watch in wireless.

As head of Rakuten Mobile’s Automation Center of Excellence, Rahul Atri is front and center in the Japanese mobile carrier’s effort to radically change how networks and processes are managed — and not just for its own sake.

“You will not see other telcos that have an Automation CoE,” he said. “That is something we take great pride in. We are building a model and hopefully making life easier for other operators, who will be able to follow our model.”

That model is the Rakuten Communications Platform (RCP), which Atri described as a “stitching thread” between applications, network resources and the teams managing those assets. RCP creates a common platform, providing everyone with the same view. “Things like all the RF planning, all the construction planning, all the inventory planning; and there are no silos,”Atri said.

The RCP platform will be offered to other network operators to help them embark on their own automation projects.

RELATED: Rakuten touts 1M mobile signups, expands RCP reach with international HQ

Atri started his career testing base stations and acquiring other skills on the radio hardware side, but he saw how software was impacting networks. “The big moment was when the software-optimized network came into the picture," he said. "I was looking at network KPIs and realized I was making the same decision from them that software could make much faster. It was interesting to see that if you just write a few lines of code, the software could do the very same thing I'm doing.”

That understanding drove Atri to steer his career into software, automation and virtualization. It wasn’t easy, but Atri was motivated to learn. “My favorite teacher used to say 'you learn one new thing a day, 365 new things in a year and you will be doing well,'” he said. “The learning never stops.”

A willingness to embrace challenges also helped, and that is something Atri said he has in common with his team at Rakuten Mobile. “I love challenges,” he said. “Solving things is like a drug. It makes me want to ask for the next challenge. And at Rakuten the challenges do not just come to us. We go to them. We try to figure out what can be automated, and how we would do it. These are things that you cannot find in Google.”