Softbank to get high-reception frequency band

Kyodo, Bloomberg

The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications said Wednesday it will allocate Softbank Mobile Corp. a coveted 900-megaherz radio frequency band to improve signal reception for its handsets in Japan.

The measure will enhance Softbank Mobile’s competitive edge against its two larger rivals, NTT DoCoMo Inc. and KDDI Corp., which already use a very receptive wave generally called “platinum band.” KDDI operates the au cellphone service.

At present, the mobile phone arm of Internet firm Softbank Corp. is at a disadvantage against DoCoMo and KDDI because the band it is assigned can easily be blocked by obstacles. Both DoCoMo and KDDI use an 800-megaherz frequency band.

Softbank Mobile’s subscribers have been growing since it became the first to sell Apple Inc.’s iPhone in Japan. Its subscribers numbered around 28.06 million as of the end of January, close to the 34.47 million for au. DoCoMo has 59.71 million subscribers.

The rapid increase in subscribers has been straining Softbank’s capacity to provide smooth phone and data transmission service, which is apparently why the government is giving Softbank the coveted band, industry sources said.

DoCoMo, KDDI and eAccess Ltd., as well as Softbank, had bid for the attractive band.

Mobile carriers sought the new spectrum to boost network capacity as the number of smartphone users grows, increasing demand for data transmission. The 900-megahertz spectrum will become available in July in the wake of last year’s introduction of digital broadcasting, which freed up radio bands used by the previous analog system.

More than half of wireless-service subscribers will use smartphones by March 2015, Tokyo-based MM Research Institute Ltd. forecast in July.