Major Japanese telecommunications service provider KDDI Corp. said Monday it will partner with SpaceX to provide better mobile access to users on the remote islands and mountainous regions of Japan via the U.S. firm's satellites.
KDDI said it aims to deliver high-speed, low-latency broadband internet via Space Exploration Technologies Corp., which was founded by tech billionaire Elon Musk. SpaceX Starlink satellites will connect to 1,200 remote mobile towers as soon as 2022, so that KDDI's rural customers can experience urban-level mobile connectivity.
Starlink satellites are positioned in low Earth orbit at an altitude of 550 kilometers — over 65 times closer than traditional satellites — resulting in higher transmission speeds for end users, according to KDDI.
Starlink is currently offering initial beta service to more than 100,000 users around the world and is continuing expansion toward global coverage. Customers of KDDI's "au" mobile service will face no additional charges due to the new service, the company added.
The Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry has issued an experimental license to operate the ground station for Starlink service installed at KDDI's Yamaguchi Satellite Communication Center in western Japan, according to KDDI.
KDDI also said Monday that it will launch a new low-priced mobile service plan later this month amid an intense price war with rival wireless carriers who are under government pressure to drastically reduce fees.
Instead of a fixed amount of data service per month, the plan — dubbed povo 2.0 — has no basic fees and gives customers more flexibility with data and voice call usage.
For example, customers can choose a service with 1 gigabyte of usage every seven days at ¥390 ($3.6) including tax. Other plans include 20 gigabytes per 30 days for ¥2,700 and 60 gigabytes per 90 days at ¥6,490, among other choices.
KDDI will finish accepting new customers for the current "povo" monthly plan — which offers 20-gigabyte services for ¥2,728 — in late September. To cut costs and lower fees, the company only takes applications for the "povo" discounted plans online.
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