SoftBank to be first to launch 5G services. Rakuten fully entry to mobile market is expected to trigger price competition
Softbank, the nation’s third-largest mobile phone carrier by number of subscribers, announced its 5G services would be available in Tokyo, Osaka, Chiba, Aichi, Hiroshima, Ishikawa and Fukuoka prefectures from March 31.
Customers now on 4G plans with SoftBank will be able to access 5G service for 1,000 JPY (8 EUR) a month, or free for two years if they sign up by the end of August.
The operator aims to install over 10,000 5G base stations by the end of March 2023 and expects 90% of the Japanese population to have access to 5G by the end of 2021. The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications plans to start allowing certain 4G frequencies to be converted to 5G this summer, which would let providers use existing base stations to power 5G networks.
Greenfield operator Rakuten Mobile announced a new 4G mobile carrier service plan available for 2,980 JPY (25 EUR) per month that offers unlimited data within Rakuten network areas and 2 GB per month when subscribers ride on partner networks. The monthly price tag is roughly half the cost of service plans from competitors NTT Docomo, KDDI and Softbank.
The company also announced a launch campaign offering 3 million subscribers the first full year of service free of monthly fees. The full service will launch on April 8.
Rakuten Mobile has developed the “world’s first fully virtualized mobile network”. The architecture enables the operator to offer aggressive prices and lays the groundwork for the low cost and speedy implementation of 5G.
The two biggest operators, NTT DoCoMo and KDDI, have yet to unveil their 5G timetables, but both look set to start service in the coming months.