SoftBank first to offer lower smartphone price plans following govt intervention

8 Jan 2016

Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp has announced plans to introduce a new cut-price plan for smartphone users who typically use their device less, both for voice calls and data downloads. The Nikkei Asian Review confirms that the group’s mobile arm is the first to announce a lower price plan in the wake of the government’s call last September for the country’s three major mobile phone carriers to reduce prices for ‘light’ users. As reported by CommsUpdate, in September 2015 Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s call to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC) to consider ways of lowering mobile phone bills in the country, which he sees as becoming an increasing burden for householders, sparked a sell-off in shares of Japanese mobile carriers and a dramatic slide in share prices. The PM’s intervention came during a Cabinet Office panel on economic policy that month when he declared: ‘Lightening the burden of cellphone bills and other expenses on household budgets is a critical task.’

SoftBank’s new plan will cost JPY4,900 (USD41.6) per month excluding tax, 24.6% lower than its current entry-level option of JPY6,500 for fixed-rate voice calls and data downloads. Further, it also complies with the government advisory panel’s call – appointed by Abe’s administration – for a price point of less than JPY5,000 per month. Customers who make frequent calls (of less than five minutes and only to other Japanese numbers), and whose data consumption is less than 1GB per month, can take advantage of SoftBank’s new plan. It is understood that the carrier’s rivals, NTT DOCOMO and KDDI (au), are considering launching similar options for customers who provide their own handsets.