The government of Japan today (27 October) announced what some are calling an ‘action plan’ to drive down mobile phone fees in the country and stimulate sector competition, in line with incoming prime minister Yoshihide Suga’s desire to make the cellular market more competitive. With domestic carriers such as NTT DOCOMO, SoftBank Corp and KDDI (au) having long been criticised for locking consumers into contracts that include complicated fee systems and make it difficult to switch to a rival service provider, the Japan Times writes that under the plan, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC) will create a new website explaining the benefits of switching carrier and providing guidance on how to do so. The new website is expected to come onstream within the year while, simultaneously, the MIC will also push to reduce wholesale rental costs so that MVNOs can gain access to the MNOs’ networks at more competitive rates. ‘We will carry out [the plan] with a sense of urgency,’ communications minister Ryota Takeda is quoted by the paper as saying, adding: ‘We are confident this will bring fees more in line with international standards’. Further, Suga’s administration will look to ‘promote the use of eSIMs, or SIM cards that are directly embedded into devices and can be provisioned remotely’. It is understood that guidelines on how it will do so are to be drawn up by next summer.
In a speech in August 2018, Suga – then the country’s Chief Cabinet Secretary – claimed that Japan’s mobile operators were charging more than counterparts in other countries and argued for a cut of up to 40% in mobile fees to bring Japan more into line.