Rakuten offers discount 5G in win for Suga's price-cut push
Nikkei -- Oct 01
Japanese billionaire Hiroshi Mikitani's e-commerce group Rakuten on Wednesday announced it will offer an unlimited 5G wireless data plan for roughly half the price of the country's top three mobile providers, in a move that could trigger discounts across the industry.

Rakuten's 5G plan will be available for 2,980 yen ($28) a month plus tax within its service area, the same rate as its 4G plan. The e-commerce company is a relative newcomer to mobile services, this spring breaking into an industry long dominated by NTT Docomo, KDDI and SoftBank. It hopes to attract more customers through affordable and easy-to-understand plans.

New Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is a strong advocate for lower mobile rates, saying they could be as much as 40% cheaper. Rakuten's announcement adds momentum to his push.

Suga and Mikitani, Rakuten's CEO, are old acquaintances, and they agree that Japan's mobile rates are expensive compared with the rest of the world.

Rakuten is able to offer fifth-generation service for significantly less than its rivals thanks to virtualization, an approach to network building that combines cloud technology with commodity-grade hardware. Because this method does not use expensive equipment, it requires 40% less in capital spending and 30% less in operating costs than conventional mobile networks, according to the company.

楽天モバイルが30日、5G規格のサービスを格安で開始しました。NTTドコモの再編も発表されるなか、今、携帯電話業界・通信業界で何が起きているのでしょうか。  楽天・三木谷会長:「4Gに加えて5Gも使える。料金については2980円」  月額2980円。楽天が打ち出したのは、これまでの4Gプランの料金そのままで次世代通信サービス「5G」が使えるというプランでした。  楽天モバイル・山田社長:「私どものユーザーが増えれば、全体として日本における平均的な料金が下がると」  楽天の5Gエリアは首都圏など限定的で、今の4Gでも自前の基地局を設置するエリア以外では利用に制限があるものの、この発表が携帯各社の値下げの起爆剤となるのでしょうか。  菅官房長官(当時):「国民の大事な電波ですから、安いということは極めて大事だと思っていますので」  携帯電話料金の値下げは、菅総理が官房長官時代から打ち出していた肝煎り(きもいり)の政策。29日はNTTが、携帯電話大手「NTTドコモ」の完全子会社化を発表。  NTT・澤田社長:「お客様の要望の一つとして、値下げについても検討していく」  NTTの澤田社長は完全子会社化で財政基盤が整い、値下げの余力が出てくると、前向きな考えを示しました。KDDIも・・・。
News sources: Nikkei, ANNnewsCH
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