The communications ministry is considering introducing a system to charge internet users a fee so that fiber-optic infrastructure for 5G wireless networks can be constructed and maintained across the country, informed sources said Tuesday.

Under the plan, major mobile carriers and other companies providing internet services by using fiber-optic lines are expected to collect a small monthly fee from its users.

With the collected funds, the ministry is considering providing subsidies to businesses managing fiber-optic lines in unprofitable areas, such as mountainous areas and on remote islands, the sources said.

The ministry plans to launch a panel of experts in spring this year at the earliest to start related discussions, hoping to introduce the envisaged fee system in the mid-2020s.

Currently, NTT East Corp. and NTT West Corp. collect a monthly fee of ¥2 from mobile and fixed-line phone users to maintain their fixed-line networks across Japan. Their networks are designated as a universal service, which operators are obliged to offer uniformly across the nation.

The panel is likely to discuss the new fee system for fiber-optic networks based on the existing fee program for the fixed-line networks, the sources said.

While the transmission speed of the 5G networks will be up to 100 times faster than that of the current 4G networks, 5G networks require more base stations than 4G networks.

Against this background, securing funds to construct and maintain 5G network infrastructure is a key challenge for developing 5G networks across the country, including unprofitable areas, the sources said.

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