Japan telecoms plan spring rate war for mobile services

Nikkei -- Jan 25
Japan's three major telecoms -- NTT Docomo, KDDI and SoftBank -- are gearing up for a rate war in spring.

"We have a number of ways to provide the lowest rates," KDDI President Makoto Takahashi told a news conference on Jan. 13, as he revealed new service plans to cut fees for unlimited data usage by up to 20% from existing plans.

KDDI's spring rollout features flexible pricing, such as usage charges on a daily or weekly basis. The company will provide 24 hours of unlimited usage for 200 yen. It will also offer a monthly 20-gigabyte plan for 2,480 yen ($24), the lowest among major mobile carriers in Japan.

KDDI is looking to challenge rivals Docomo and SoftBank, both of which announced new services in December. But as the major telecoms mostly ignore reducing rates for less data usage, competition among them and new carriers like Rakuten Mobile is expected to continue.

The new plans are scheduled to start in March.

KDDI was once criticized for its complicated fee structure, prompting a company executive to remark that KDDI could not "afford to commit another mistake." To simplify billing, family discounts will be eliminated from its new service and certain other mobile plans, three of which will see a 500-yen rate cut while two will see monthly data usage limits increase by five gigabytes. Unused data volumes can be carried forward to the following month.

The company will also allow for unlimited monthly 5G and 4G data under its "au" brand for 6,580 yen. The new plan -- which offers rate cuts of about 10% to 20% -- will put KDDI on par with NTT Docomo and SoftBank.

These three carriers have been targeted by the government of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, which is calling for reduced mobile rates. All three have announced plans to cut rates for 20-gigabyte services after the government singled them for charging more than in other countries.

- Nikkei