TOKYO, July 17 Ymobile, Japan's No.4 wireless
carrier, on Thursday unveiled a flat-rate smartphone service
about a third cheaper than Japan's three big mobile carriers,
becoming the largest player so far to offer cut-rate services as
regulators press for more price competition.
The new service from Ymobile, formed this month by a merger
of subsidiaries of No.3 mobile carrier SoftBank Corp,
offers data and voice services for as little as 2,980 yen
($29.35), compared with a minimum charge of 6,500 yen from
SoftBank and other major carriers KDDI Corp and NTT
Japanese regulators have grown increasingly critical of the
three dominant carriers, blaming them for high smartphone fees
and oligopolistic practices.
The three big carriers recently introduced cheaper data
plans and flat rates for unlimited voice calling, but continue
to face criticism for high charges.
"If you look at their prices, you can tell we're a different
group," Ymobile President Eric Gan said at a news conference in
Tokyo on Thursday.
Supermarket operator Aeon Co Ltd, electronics
retailer Bic Camera Inc and other mobile virtual
network operators (MVNOs), have launched cut-rate smartphone
services with flat rates below 3,000 yen although they have only
limited offerings of model types.
Ymobile, which says it will target feature phone users who
want to switch smartphones, will also offer special deals for
additional data transmission to users of the Yahoo website.
In March, Yahoo Japan Corp, the country's biggest
Internet portal and 42.6 percent owned by SoftBank, announced in
March that it would buy the SoftBank subsidiaries for 324
billion yen ($3.19 billion) to launch its own mobile Internet
service, but abandoned the plan two months later.
($1 = 101.5300 Japanese yen)
(Reporting By Teppei Kasai; Editing by Edmund Klamann and Matt