LTE in Japan: competitive but confusing
April 03, 2012
Japan is one of the leading nations in the Asia Pacific in terms of LTE deployments, with four operators having launched commercial services, while KDDI will join its competitors with its own LTE offering this month. Market leader NTT DoCoMo was the first entrant in the market in December 2010 and the carrier recently announced the signing up of two million LTE subscribers. More recently, Softbank and eMobile (eAccess) have deployed commercial networks while the Internet Initiative of Japan (IIJ) is providing services as an MVNO using DoCoMo’s network.
DoCoMo has since adopted rather complicated pricing and discount plans. Through September of 2012, all LTE downlinks will be offered at a maximum of 75Mbps. According to DoCoMo, from October 2012, downlink rates for users who exceed 7GB of data usage in a given month will be reduced to a maximum of 128kbps for the remainder of that month. Continued service at a maximum 75Mbps will be available for an additional charge of JPY 2,625 ($30), including tax, for each 2GB of additional data required. The Xi Packet Flat Rate service is priced at JPY 4,140 ($50) increasing to JPY5,985 in May this year. In comparison, DoCoMo’s highest 3G FOMA service offers a downlink speed of 7.2Mbps and it is also priced at JPY5,985.
The Xi Packet Flat Rate Double service is a two-tiered service with charges for data allowances stepped as follows:
• November 2011 to April 2012 JPY2,100 to JPY4935 (Free data allowance 5,000KB)
• From May 2012 JPY2,100 to JPY6510
DoCoMo Xi Flat-Rate Double pricing summary
Up to 9.5MB (expressed as 9,524KB by DoCoMo)
Up to 24.8MB (expressed as 24,800NB by DoCoMo)
Above 7GB including JPY2,625 per every 2GB
Although Softbank's 5GB cap is lower than that offered by DoCoMo, the operator is offering indefinite discounts for users that sign up to its service by April 2012 (JPY 4,980 with a two-year contract). In contrast, DoCoMo's staged discounted plans will be discontinued from May 2012.
SoftBank is also using an unlimited promotion plan which will run until October 2012. After this, once users reach the 5GB limit they will be throttled to 128kbps or there is an option to purchase an additional 2GB for JPY 2,625. In addition, Softbank subscribers with an existing smartphone or tablet device contract receive a significant discount (JPY3,880 total cost) which again, will remain in place if users sign up before April 2012.
Phil Marshall / Tolaga Research
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