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Docomo rejiggers pricing schemes to counter free phone apps

by Kazuaki Nagata

Staff Writer

Aiming to lure away rivals’ subscribers while retaining their own, NTT Docomo Inc. on Thursday unveiled new monthly subscription plans that include a fixed rate for unlimited domestic calls and its first data sharing plan for smartphone users.

The plans take effect in June.

Docomo said its basic ¥2,700 monthly fee will include unlimited calling for smartphone users, which is good news for people who make lots of calls. Docomo customers currently pay ¥20 for every 30 seconds on top of the basic service, which costs ¥743 a month.

At the same time, those who make few calls may find the new plan pricey.

With the rise of cheap, or even free, voice call applications like Line, mobile phone carriers have had to rethink their strategies.

Docomo President Kaoru Kato stressed that the carrier’s “quality of voice calls and high connectivity” will appeal to consumers.

The nation’s top carrier also unveiled new plans that allow family members to share data consumption, which could help them save on Internet fees.

For instance, one plan offers 10 gigabytes of data for ¥9,500 a month, with an extra ¥500 a month paid for each family member added.

At the moment, the cheapest fast LTE data plan for smartphones costs ¥4,700 a month with a 3 GB limit. Under the new ¥9,500 sharing plan, four family members could each pay ¥2,750 a month instead, presenting a bargain for people who aren’t heavy Internet users.

For individuals, Docomo currently offers a 3 GB plan for ¥4,700 or a 7 GB plan for ¥5,700. The new plans charge ¥3,500 for 2 GB and ¥5,000 for 5 GB, which powers users might find expensive.

Docomo said it will also give discounts to long-term users. Those who have used the company for more than 16 years will receive a ¥600 monthly discount for the ¥3,500 2 GB plan.

Competition has focused on luring customers from rivals, with giveaways of tens of thousands of yen offered to those who switch. But efforts to improve quality have lagged.

Docomo is apparently trying to differentiate itself with better services that reward loyal customers.

The carrier said its current plans will end in August.

  • midnightbrewer

    Rejigger does not mean cheaper; these are the same kind of shuffling-the-numbers around tactics that US carriers have been doing for years.

    Let’s look at their math: ¥9,500 for 10GB of data for a family translates to a base cost of ¥9,500 for the first person (¥950/1GB), then ¥500 for each person added. Question: does each person get an additional 10GB a month, or do they share that data cap? If the latter, that means that a two-person family will pay ¥5,000 each for 5GB of data (¥1,000/1GB); a three-person family will pay ¥3,500 each for only 3.3GB of data (¥1,060/1GB). Talk about diminishing returns!

    The old individual plans were ¥1,566/1GB for the 3GB limit and ¥814/1GB for the 7GB plan. The new ones will be ¥1,750 and ¥1,000 per 1GB respectively, meaning that Docomo is simply raising their prices while lowering the data cap. This is not competitive, it’s just hoping that people don’t know how to do math.

    And their final peace offering is to say that if you stick with them for 16 years they’ll start giving you a monthly discount of ¥600? How generous. I’m not going to bother breaking down the numbers on that one; it’s just plain insulting.

    Docomo: same as before, asking for more. Nobody cares if your phone call quality is the clearest; you still can’t compete with free, and your attempt to charge people more for even that is deplorable.

  • Max Erimo

    After 16 years you get a whole 600yen discount. Shows just how much DOCOMO really thinks of it’s customers.
    The only thing that the company has going for it that it will unlock your phone so you can use it overseas, with a provider from another country, and/or use the phone with a different domestic company.