Is it better to release the decadeslong shackles on telecom giant NTT so that it can compete against global players such as Google and Microsoft? Or would that let the genie out of the bottle and lead NTT to monopolize Japan’s communications market?

A ruling Liberal Democratic Party idea, first floated June, to sell the government’s NTT shares to finance Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s defense spending increase has now morphed into something else — what to do with the law regulating NTT's business activities.

And it has reignited a battle between NTT and its rivals KDDI, SoftBank and Rakuten over the past few months, with a key LDP panel holding its fate — and possibly the fate of the mobile carrier industry — in its hands.