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Son says quality of network ‘is critical’

by Kazuaki Nagata

Staff Writer

Softbank Corp. President Masayoshi Son said Monday that providing a quality communications network will be even more critical now that all three major carriers are selling the iPhone.

“The scene of the cellphone industry is changing,” Son said during an event unveiling Softbank’s winter-spring lineup in Tokyo. “From now on, when choosing a cellphone carrier, we have to compete on the quality of the network rather than providing 20 or 30 kinds of handsets.”

Softbank was the first carrier to provide Apple Inc.’s popular iPhones in Japan, which allowed it to make strong gains against competitors NTT DoCoMo Inc. and KDDI Corp.

Because Softbank has been criticized for its weak network connection for the past several years, Son said DoCoMo’s participation in the cut-throat iPhone market would have been “devastating” if the mobile giant had decided to sell iPhones four years ago.

But now that Softbank’s network has improved over the past 3½ years or so, Son said the risk is not big, and it has been proven so as Softbank is still outselling its rivals in the iPhone market.

Surveys by third parties at hundreds of train stations nationwide show that Softbank in fact tops other carriers in terms of network quality, Son said.

Although DoCoMo’s debut into the iPhone market on Sept. 20 was much anticipated, Softbank has apparently won the first round of the battle.

According to Tokyo-based market researcher BCN Inc., Softbank beat DoCoMo and KDDI in terms of selling the new iPhone 5s and 5c during the first three days that they were on the market.

Sales data provided by electronics stores shows that Softbank iPhones accounted for 44.7 percent, while DoComo was second at 27.8 percent and KDDI third with 27.5 percent.

As for Softbank’s new lineup, the firm will only sell four new smartphones using Google’s Android operating system, with the focus on speed and coverage.

The new models, designated Hybrid 4G LTEs, will be compatible with two types of fast LTE networks for the first time.

Softbank runs two types of LTE, the TD-LTE and the FDD-LTE networks. The iPhones connect with the FDD-LTE but not with the TD-LTE, while Softbank’s existing Android phones are only compatible with the TD-LTE.

  • japanish

    Softbank products are relatively cheap, but the BB network I used from them was terrible: very poor quality. I think Son gets far to easy a ride in the Japanese media. Softbank products are pretty dismal IMO.