Japan’s new fourth mobile network operator (MNO), Rakuten Mobile, reportedly plans to charge less than half the fees of its big three rivals when it publishes its new mobile data plans this week. The Japan Times quotes sources close to the matter as saying that in a bid to entice users to sign up when it launches commercial services next month, Rakuten Inc.’s new mobile venture is considering a plan costing JPY2,980 (USD27.6) per month – throwing down the gauntlet to the old guard. The country’s biggest MNO by subscribers NTT DOCOMO currently offers a high data usage plan for JPY6,980 while KDDI and SoftBank each charge JPY7,480 for similar service plans.
Rakuten Inc. first entered the domestic mobile market in October 2014 as an MVNO, but has since opted to move to full-blown MNO status. It had expected to launch its commercial network in October 2019, but was forced to push back its schedule amid problems in installing new base stations. As such, Rakuten Mobile’s networks are expected to provide services only in some major cities, such as Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka, with nationwide coverage provided by an agreement to lease capacity on its rivals’ infrastructure. Critics note, however, that this reliance on the competition – it will incur leasing fees to use their networks – will likely weigh on profitability in the launch phase.