• Kyodo

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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.

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