SoftBank to be 1st to launch 5G network service in Japan

SoftBank has announced it will launch 5G services on March 27th in Japan – the first network operator to launch 5G services, according to Japan Times.

SoftBank plans to charge an additional monthly fee of JPY 1,000 (approximately USD 9) for access to its 5G service. However, as a service launch promotion, customers will have free access to SoftBank’s 5G service for the first 2 years, under a sales campaign that runs until August.

SoftBank plans to initially provide its 5G service in Tokyo, Osaka, Chiba, Aichi, Hiroshima, Ishikawa and Fukuoka prefectures, starting 31 March. The operator intends to deploy more than 10,000 base stations by end-March 2023.

SoftBank will start selling two 5G-enabled smartphone models on March 27th and add two more later this year.  Sharp and Sony recently unveiled their first 5G smartphone models. SoftBank plans to provide 5G smartphones from Sharp, China’s ZTE, Oppo and LG. Sharp unveiled its first 5G smartphone model, the Aquos R5G, on 17 February. The Android phone will be available in Japan this spring and its price will be similar to existing high-end smartphones, Sharp said.

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Rivals NTT Docomo Inc. and KDDI Corp. are expected to reveal their own 5G plans soon.

While the launch of 5G in Japan will ramp up domestic competition, Rakuten Inc.’s foray into the market as the nation’s fourth big carrier will stir things up further.

Earlier this week, Rakuten announced it would undercut its rivals with a 4G service on April 8 that only costs ¥2,980 a month for unlimited data usage.

The plan is about half the price charged by the top three mobile phone carriers, but Rakuten’s coverage is limited by comparison. Rakuten also said the first year of its 4G service would be free for the first 3 million subscribers.

SoftBank’s 4G plan costs ¥6,500 a month for up to 50GB of data, with a ¥1,000 discount for the first year. SoftBank, however, has recently lowered prices — ostensibly to head off Rakuten’s aggressive charge — and is laying the groundwork for getting customers to shift to 5G without any added financial catches.

Rakuten will reportedly launch a 5G network in June.  This new age carrier had previously announced plans to launch 4G services starting April, and then upgrade to 5G in summer as it gradually expands the network. It aims to have nationwide Japan coverage by March 2021.

Pre-standard 5G networks have already been deployed in the United States, South Korea, China and parts of Europe.

References:

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/03/05/business/tech/softbank-5g-japan-first/

https://www.telecompaper.com/news/softbank-to-launch-5g-service-in-japan-on-27-march–1329354