KDDI and Rakuten sign govt initiative to eradicate cellular dead zones by 2024

30 Apr 2019

Nikkei Asian Review reports that Japanese mobile carrier KDDI (au) and new fourth player Rakuten Mobile, a unit of the e-commerce platform Rakuten, have signed up to a government initiative that seeks to ensure reliable network coverage nationwide within the next five years – even in remote, low population-density areas. With the government having set out its stall to see ultra-high speed mobile signals made available to even the remotest communities, it will compensate cellcos with subsidies to offset the cost of installing base stations in unprofitable locations, if multiple carriers work together.

The online news portal notes that the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC) and local government authorities have already begun offering financial incentives to carriers that extend services to underserved populations, but 16,000 people still live in mobile ‘dead zones’. To address this, KDDI and Rakuten Mobile have submitted plans to the MIC committing themselves to deploying enough 4G LTE base stations to wipe out dead zones by 31 March 2024. According to cellcos’ provisional plans, the full-blown installation projects will start ‘no earlier than fiscal 2021’.

The government is confident that Japan’s other leading players – NTT DOCOMO and Softbank Mobile – will sign up to the initiative, and work together to provide a cost-effective deployment.