SoftBank, KDDI must unlock smartphones from day one, gov’t says

20 Sep 2019

The Japan Times writes that the government is putting in place measures to force mobile network operators (MNOs) SoftBank Corp and KDDI (au) to guarantee that customers signing up for their new discount plans will have their handsets unlocked for use on any network from day one. According to sources with knowledge of the matter, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC) has learned that the MNOs – which last week announced new plans with a 50% discount on handset purchases – included certain conditions, such as the fact that users will not be able to unlock their phone for at least 100 days. The MIC adjudges that such a restriction would effectively lock-in subscribers, contrary to the spirit of its new rules on handset unlocking. It is understood that the ministry will review its guidelines as early as late October to oblige carriers to remove the lock immediately. The move comes as Japan implements a revision to the local telecoms law, effective from next month, to outlaw the practice of discounting handsets in lieu of retaining relatively high communications fees in a bundled package. The MIC’s amendment also limits handset discounts to JPY20,000 (USD185.2).