By Sam Nussey
TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s Rakuten Inc <4755.T> launched low price 5G services via its cloud-based mobile network on Wednesday in a challenge to rival carriers under fire for high prices that could shake up the telecoms industry globally.
The start of the next-generation service follows the launch of Rakuten’s 4G services in April in a network based on cloud-based software and commoditized hardware that the e-commerce firm says has radically slashed entry costs.
Rakuten is offering 5G plans for the same price as its existing plan – 2,980 yen ($28) before tax per month. CEO Hiroshi Mikitani said that price point is around 70% lower than larger rivals which began 5G services earlier this year.
The launch comes as Japan’s new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has renewed attacks on industry prices and a day after NTT launched a buyout of top wireless carrier NTT Docomo <9437.T> in a deal it said would facilitate lower prices.
Analysts also question whether the service can rival the heavy spending of cash-rich rivals and if consumers are willing to accept patchier coverage for low prices.
(Reporting by Sam Nussey; Editing by Kim Coghill)