Softbank Corp. said Monday it will start offering a discount land-line telephone service beginning in December, a move expected to deal yet another blow to industry behemoth NTT Corp.
The service will be offered via Japan Telecom Co., a land-line operator bought by Softbank from U.S. investment fund Ripplewood Holdings LLC earlier this year.
For the first year of subscription, users will be able to make free unlimited calls to three numbers registered in advance. They will also benefit from 90 percent discounts on any other long-distance calls during certain hours.
The service ensures number portability, meaning subscribers can keep their current home phone numbers after switching to the new service.
During Monday’s news conference, Softbank Chief Executive Masayoshi Son would not give a numerical target for subscribers, but said the carrier would pursue customer expansion in an aggressive fashion.
Son explained that the new service will offer much cheaper rates than other carriers because the firm does not have to pay access charges to NTT for using a local network between a subscriber’s home and a local exchange.
Instead of paying NTT these fees every time a user makes a call, Japan Telecom will use a local network that will actually be borrowed in its entirety from NTT.
Under competitive regulations, NTT must make unused telephone lines, or so-called dry coppers, available to rivals.
Softbank’s move is expected to irk NTT, which has already suffered falls in revenue from land-line phones, with more people defecting to cheaper IP phones.
The new service is especially damaging to the industry giant, as it is expected to steal customers who pay monthly basic fees — a steady and lucrative revenue source.
Son launched the Yahoo BB high-speed Internet access service about three years ago, and the firm rapidly expanded its subscriber base, which now numbers more than 4 million.
The firm’s aggressive marketing and cut-rate fees have forced NTT and other rivals to reduce their ASDL prices, bringing Japan some of the cheapest broadband services in the world.
New points system
Yahoo Japan Corp. said Monday it will launch a points system Wednesday that users of its Internet shopping mall can use to pay their bills online.
Movie provider ShowTime Inc. started a similar service Friday.
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