Son vows overseas flat rate for Softbank devices

by Kazuaki Nagata

Softbank Mobile Corp. President Masayoshi Son said recently on Twitter the company will consider a flat-rate unlimited mail and Web service for people taking its mobile gadgets overseas, responding to customer complaints that network fees are expensive when they go outside Japan.

Son, known as an aggressive entrepreneur and an active Twitter user, responded to a user’s comment Sunday that it would be nice if Apple Inc.’s iPhone and iPad, for which Softbank provides mobile services in Japan, could be used overseas for an unlimited flat rate.

“We’ll do it. (We’ll) start with some major countries,” Son replied.

A Softbank spokesman confirmed Wednesday the company will seriously consider such a service, but no specifics have been decided, including the timing and price.

The Internet can be accessed with most of Softbank’s recent phones in some other countries, including the U.S., France, China and South Korea, but fees are considerably higher than the rate in Japan, which is ¥4,410 to ¥5,985 a month for unlimited use.

For instance, sending one e-mail message of up to 500 words via Softbank’s service costs about ¥100 overseas. It costs about ¥1 to send an e-mail of up to 250 words in Japan.

Sending a picture 1 megabyte in size costs about ¥7,370 overseas, and watching a five-minute movie on Yahoo costs about ¥13,655.

The Internet fee is more expensive overseas because Japanese travelers are accessing networks owned by other firms.

Praising Twitter as a useful service, Son has responded to users’ requests and comments a number of times.

For instance, the day before preorders started for the iPad, one user complained of being unable to take part because only credit cards were accepted.

“We’ll do it. (We’ll) accept cash as well. It needs several days to change the system,” replied Son, who has about 274,000 subscribers to his “tweets.”

While Son has made a few splashes with Twitter, NTT DoCoMo Inc. President Ryuji Yamada and KDDI Corp. au President Tadashi Onodera have said they don’t plan to use the service for now.

Yamada said using Twitter could lead to misunderstandings, and Onodera said people who are in responsible positions shouldn’t use it in a haphazard manner.