According to local media reports, Japan’s would-be fourth operator Rakuten Mobile has postponed its full commercial launch from its scheduled October 2019 date until spring 2020, due to what it claims are infrastructure deployment delays. Unnamed sources say that the mobile network operator (MNO), a Rakuten Group company, is currently preparing and testing its base stations and ancillary infrastructure systems but that due to delays in this process, it fears its current network would be unable to cope with large volumes of traffic in October. As a result, Rakuten now plans to initially offer services to just 5,000 customers for free from October, the original date for the full rollout, ahead of a full-blown launch next year. Rakuten Mobile is planning to build out a potential 3,432 base stations and holds approvals from the relevant authorities to do so, and with preparations underway in the Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka metropolitan areas, the newcomer is trying to launch its nationwide service by piggybacking on networks operated by KDDI in other regions. Nevertheless, the news is a blow to the government of Japan which is backing Rakuten’s entry into the domestic mobile market to challenge incumbent MNOs NTT DOCOMO, KDDI (au) and SoftBank Corp.
Shares in parent Japanese internet firm Rakuten fell 6% in local trading on Friday (6 September).