Business / Corporate

Rakuten to expand free mobile phone trial before launch of full service

Kyodo

E-commerce giant Rakuten Inc.’s mobile phone unit said Thursday it would expand its free mobile phone trial service, currently limited to 5,000 users in major cities, ahead of its April launch of a full-scale wireless service.

Rakuten Mobile Inc. said it would provide the free service to an additional 20,000 people in Tokyo’s 23 wards as well as Kobe, Nagoya and Osaka, accepting user applications from Thursday to Feb. 3.

The operator had initially planned to roll out its full-scale wireless service nationwide last October, but postponed the launch due to a delay in installing network base stations across the country.

It is offering an expanding free service to limited users as a way to kick off the new network.

Rakuten first entered the mobile phone sector in October 2014 as a virtual mobile network operator, using other wireless carriers’ networks.

The start of its full-scale service is expected to intensify competition in the country’s saturated market, which is dominated by three major telecom carriers — NTT Docomo Inc., KDDI Corp. and SoftBank Corp.

On Thursday, in preparation for the launch, a new outlet in Tokyo will start selling the company’s own smartphone handset — the Rakuten Mini — and accepting customer orders, Rakuten said.

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