• Kyodo

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SoftBank Corp. launched its ultrafast 5G wireless offerings Friday, joining rivals NTT Docomo Inc. and KDDI Corp. in a battle to attract customers looking for seamless video and game streaming.

The 5G services will initially cover a very limited area but will be expanded to cover parts of seven prefectures, including Tokyo and Osaka, as of next Tuesday. The company plans to expand the network nationwide over several years.

NTT Docomo started its 5G services on Wednesday and KDDI, which operates the au brand, did so a day later.

Rakuten Inc., set to make a full-scale entry into the mobile phone market on April 8, plans to launch its 5G operation in June.

SoftBank will charge an additional ¥1,000 per month for 5G services, but will exempt existing and new customers for two years via a campaign that will run through the end of August.

To use the new services, customers need to purchase a new 5G capable handset. SoftBank put two types on sale on Friday and plans to introduce another two by summer.

The new 5G technology is expected to enable users to send and receive data some 100 times faster than the current 4G networks, allowing smartphone users to download a two-hour movie in a few seconds.

Besides mobile phones, the new technology is also expected to be used for industrial purposes such as autonomous driving and remote clinical services. Such 5G services have already been launched in more than 30 countries, including the United States and China.

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