Business / Corporate

KDDI rolls out new 'price down' smartphone plans for Japan amid government push for lower rates

by Kazuaki Nagata

Staff Writer

KDDI Corp. unveiled new “price down” data plans for its smartphone users Monday amid pressure from the government to facilitate competition among the major mobile network carriers.

The operator of the au brand rolled out three new choices targeting all types of subscribers. One is a metered plan with a two-year contract for light users that starts at ¥2,980 per month if their data usage does not exceed 1 gigabyte. An additional ¥1,000 discount will be offered to customers who have two or more family members using KDDI smartphones.

Ahead of other rivals, KDDI introduced a metered data plan in 2017, but “we are striving to provide an even lower rate plan,” Takashi Shoji, senior managing executive officer director, said during a news event in Tokyo.

With the family discount, KDDI said the new plan, which will be available June 1, will lower the rates of some users subscribing to a 1 GB flat plan introduced before 2017 by as much as 40 percent.

KDDI is apparently catching up to a move made by NTT Docomo Inc. last month. Docomo also unveiled new data plans, including a metered one that starts at ¥1,980 for those who use less than 1 GB of data a month and includes a ¥1,000 family discount.

Docomo also claims that its new plans can reduce customers’ bills by up to 40 percent.

A “40 percent price cut” has been a key phrase in the industry since Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, in an apparent aim to heat up competition, mentioned last August that phone bills could be lowered by that much.

SoftBank Corp. said last week that its plans are competitive enough for now, but its sub-brand Ymobile will come out with new plans by September.

KDDI will also start providing an unlimited high-speed data plan for its smartphone users that the firm claims is the first of its kind among Japan’s mega-carriers.

The plan will have a monthly price of ¥8,980 and be available starting around this summer. The family discount can be applied as well, while KDDI home broadband internet users will be able to receive an additional ¥1,000 discount.

Docomo and SoftBank provide plans for heavy users, but Docomo’s plan has a limit of 30 GB while SoftBank’s is 50 GB.

“This is the first unlimited data plan in the industry, so we are confident that it stands out compared to rivals,” Shoji said.

KDDI’s move may prompt Docomo and SoftBank to come up with an unlimited plan or something similar.

The third KDDI plan offers 7 GB monthly for ¥5,480 while data used when accessing popular social network services such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram won’t be counted.

The rates for these two plans are also based on a two-year commitment.