SoftBank to offer lower price option for smartphone users


SoftBank Corp. said Thursday it will provide from April at the earliest a new cut-rate price option for smartphone customers who do not talk for long periods on the phone nor use a great deal of data.

SoftBank is the first among nation’s three major mobile phone carriers to unveil a low price option in response to the government’s call to reduce mobile phone prices for light users.

The new plan, with a monthly fee of ¥4,900 excluding tax, is 24.6 percent lower than SoftBank’s current cheapest option of ¥6,500 for fixed-rate voice calls and data downloads.

It also meets the price target of less than ¥5,000 suggested last month by an advisory pricing panel for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government.

SoftBank’s rivals, NTT Docomo Inc. and KDDI Corp., are also considering introducing similar options for customers who provide their own handsets.

SoftBank said its smartphone subscribers on a two-year contract who use up to 1 gigabyte per month of data and who make frequent but less than five-minute domestic voice calls can take advantage of the new plan.

To implement the plan, it will create an option for up to 1 gigabyte of data use for a monthly charge of ¥2,900, as opposed to the 2 gigabytes allowed under its conventional low-end option.

One gigabyte of data is enough for users who simply browse Web pages and send and receive emails but not sufficient for those who frequently watch videos or stream audio.

Combining this with an unlimited five-minute call plan will put the monthly fee at ¥4,900, SoftBank said. But if a customer chooses unlimited calls of any length, the charge will be ¥5,900.

The price plans currently offered by the three dominant mobile phone carriers have been criticized as being designed for heavy users, making them expensive for those who rarely use such services.

In September, Abe instructed Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Sanae Takaichi to consider ways to address such concerns, deeming phone prices too high.

  • Charles

    What? I actually agree with Abe on something? Am I dreaming? Has Hell frozen over?

    Yes, cell phone service IS currently too expensive.

    Why it took a government suggestion to implement this, and why SoftBank and the other companies didn’t simply respond to a market demand, just goes to show that Japan isn’t really a capitalist country, but either way, I’ll take it–24% cheaper cell phone service! Yahoo!

    ¥6,500 is ¥84,240 per year after taxes, or roughly 3% of my income.

    This is far too expensive, so I use prepaid instead (an old Android phone set up with au prepaid for ¥1,500 per month). I can receive calls, but can’t do SMS, keitai e-mail, Line, or anything else that requires a data plan. I feel like I’m missing out on a big part of modern Japanese life.

    I was planning to just suck it up and get one of those expensive plans this year because I’m so tired of missing out on so many basic things that everyone else is doing.

    Now, this new plan comes along that costs 24% less than I was planning on paying, so that’s really good news. This is literally a savings of ¥20,736 per year. Nothing to sneeze at in today’s economy!

  • midnightbrewer

    Unfortunately, this offering is designed to appear generous while failing to actually serve anybody. SoftBank has tailored it to fall just below where the majority of its users comfortably live, at least in terms of data.

    Even a mild day of web surfing typically hits the 100MB limit, due to the ridiculous bloat caused by online advertising, tracking, and scripts. Want to read a Japan Times article? You have to load in the entire Discus comment framework as well, even if you never comment.

    So ten days in and you’re at 1GB. Then come the apps that constantly push data in the background – email, chat, and social apps. Then there are automatic updates for apps and the phone’s OS. Sure, all of these things can be turned off, but it’s not by default and it’s not trivial, even on user-friendly iOS. An average user can burn through hundreds of megabytes per month without ever opening an app.

    SoftBank can afford to raise the margin to even just 2GB, but then you actually start to see people actually able to take advantage of the plan, which would affect their bottom line. This is an empty gesture at best.