Carriers to aim new smartphone data packages at young adults


Three major mobile phone carriers are trying to attract younger users with new price and data packages such as better deals for those who spend a lot of time tinkering online.

Their targets are those aged up to 25, a group that uses data communications heavily and which is seen as a main source of revenue in the long term. The companies are bracing for a fall-off in customers as they switch carriers following a request from the communications ministry to review smartphone charges.

Last month, the ministry asked NTT Docomo Inc., KDDI Corp. and SoftBank Corp. to rectify excessive discounts on handsets — free handsets for those who switch networks, for example — and to introduce lower fee plans for light data users.

In response, SoftBank has announced a fixed-rate plan with a one-gigabyte data package for a monthly rate of ¥4,900, which is ¥1,600 cheaper than the lowest rate at present. The other two carriers are considering similar steps.

As such low-rate plans will not boost earnings, however, the carriers have decided to target young people who watch movies and music videos on their smartphones. Spring campaigns will offer privileges to those aged 25 or under who conclude fixed-rate data plans with data packages of at least 5 gigabytes.

Docomo will offer an additional 6 gigabytes per month for three years after a contract is concluded and cut charges by up to ¥1,404 per month for the first year.

SoftBank will offer a choice of either adding 6 gigabytes per month for three years or discounting monthly fees by ¥1,620 for two years.

KDDI, which operates the au mobile services, will give an additional 5 gigabytes per month until subscribers reach 25 years of age and will discount monthly data communications charges by ¥1,008 for the first year.

“This is our response to requests from those in their teens and 20s who want more communications traffic capacity,” said company President Takashi Tanaka.

Analysts say the carriers are trying to encourage data use.

“The carriers aim to get young people to build up a habit of using even more data communications services,” Satoru Kikuchi, senior analyst at SMBC Nikko Securities Inc., said.