TOKYO, July 17 (Reuters) - 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 DoCoMo Inc.
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 Driskill