Japan’s new fourth operator Rakuten Mobile began taking limited orders for services on its fledgling network yesterday (1 October), after rollout delays forced the postponement of its full commercial launch to spring 2020. The unit, a subsidiary of e-commerce giant Rakuten, is kicking off the new network by offering free services to 5,000 people in Tokyo (all 23 wards), Kobe, Nagoya and Osaka. If more than that apply for the initial service via its online sign-up, the successful participants will be chosen by lottery, The Japan Times reports. The trial service is expected to run from 13 October 2019 to 31 March 2020.
Last month, the newcomer confirmed that it had postponed its full commercial launch from its scheduled October 2019 date, due to what it claimed were infrastructure deployment delays. Unnamed sources said that the MNO is currently preparing and testing its base stations and ancillary infrastructure systems but that due to delays in this process, it feared its current network would be unable to cope with large volumes of traffic in October. However, Rakuten Mobile’s decision to push back its launch has come as a disappointment to the government, which selected the fourth player to take the fight to Japan’s three long-established incumbents NTT DOCOMO, SoftBank Corp and KDDI (au), and boost competition/drive down mobile phone charges. It is understood that on no fewer than three occasions, the government directed Rakuten Mobile to speed up the pace of its rollout after it admitted that its original plan to deploy 3,432 base stations by March next year was behind schedule. The number was just 653 as at 6 September and puts it at odds with the terms and conditions of its licence award in April 2018.