KDDI Corp is set to launch its first low-cost smartphones on 18 December via a new mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) being run through its 100% subsidiary KDDI Value Enabler Corp (KVE), The Yomiuri Shimbun reports. In an effort to drive competition, the carrier will begin selling inexpensive smartphones under the brand name of ‘UQ Mobile’. To date, KDDI has not looked to bolster its earnings by renting out capacity on its network in this way. The move could start a stampede from rivals looking to follow suit. At launch, the new MVNO is offering two different handsets, with monthly prices starting from JPY2,920 (USD24.59) excluding taxes and covering the handset, 2GB of high speed data transfers and basic voice call charges. The service will be provided via retail electronics stores across the nation and through online shopping services, the paper says.