US-based entertainment group Disney has revealed plans to launch a mobile phone service in Japan through a tie-up with Softbank Corp, in a bid to win a share of the highly competitive Japanese cellular market. Disney’s local subsidiary, Walt Disney Japan, has submitted an application to the communications ministry requesting permission to launch ‘Disney Mobile’ in the first half of 2008 by leasing capacity from Softbank Mobile, the two companies said in a joint statement. ‘This relationship will enable us to deliver an innovative and integrated mobile service to the broad range of Disney customers in Japan,’ Paul Candland, president of Walt Disney Japan, said in the statement. Masayoshi Son, head of the Softbank group, added: ‘We’re confident that this collaboration with Disney will enable Softbank to further expand its range of customers.’
Disney’s announcement comes just two months after it revealed it was shutting down its US MVNO venture at the end of the year to reassess how to compete in a tough market for high-value cellular services. In its September announcement, Disney said it would serve and support current customers until 31 December, but declined to comment on the financial impact of the closure, or how many subscribers would be affected. The company has been leasing capacity from Sprint Nextel for its MVNO service which offered special handsets that could pin-point the user’s location on a map. Last year, Disney took a USD30 million charge after it shut down its Mobile ESPN service in the US, also run in conjunction with Sprint.