• Jiji, Kyodo


SoftBank Corp. said Thursday that it has revised its new low-cost mobile phone service plan to lower the base rate.

The 20-gigabyte smartphone plan will be offered at ¥2,480 per month, with an option of adding an unlimited number of calls of up to 5 minutes each for ¥500. The service, named "Linemo," will be launched on March 17.

The plan, first announced in December, was initially priced at ¥2,980 per month, with an unlimited number of calls of up to five minutes each included in the base plan.

The change brought down the base rate to be on par with that of rival KDDI Corp.'s new "povo" low-cost service.

Users will be able to sign up for the Linemo service online, including through the Line messaging app.

SoftBank has been accepting applications for the service since Jan. 27. The number of applications "has exceeded our expectations," Senior Vice President Hiroyuki Terao said at an online news conference.

SoftBank's 20-GB service is designed to woo young users and leverage Line's high penetration rate in the country with about 86 million users a month. Data usage on Line will not count toward the 20 gigabytes.

SoftBank's unit Z Holdings Corp., the operator of Yahoo Japan online services, and Line are scheduled to merge in March.

Another rival, NTT Docomo Inc., will offer its new "ahamo" low-cost service, including unlimited calling, for ¥2,980 per month, starting on March 26. KDDI's povo will also start in March.

The three companies' moves to start low-cost smartphone services come in response to calls from the administration of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga for mobile rates to be lowered.

In December, SoftBank announced that it was also cutting fees for its mainstay brand, charging ¥6,580 a month from March for unlimited data usage, whether it be for 4G or the more advanced 5G, to better compete with NTT Docomo and other rivals.

SoftBank's new prices from March are ¥900 lower for 4G and ¥1,900 for 5G than at present.

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