Japan’s cabinet approves Bill to lower mobile phone fees

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Japanese government this week approved an amendment to the Telecommunications Business Law which is designed to lower fees for mobile services in the country following sustained criticism of mobile network operators (MNOs) charging higher rates than many other countries, Kyodo News reports.

The cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe approved the proposed Bill which bars mobile carriers from offering service plans that bundle both the price of the handset itself and connection fees. Currently, mobile operators NTT DOCOMO, Softbank Corp and KDDI (au) typically retain high data use charges in return for subsidised phones – a system that some suggest is overly complicated and allows them to keep fees artificially high. Instead, under the proposed amendment the MNOs will have to separate out the costs levied for devices/services which Abe’s administration hopes will ultimately lead to increased competition and lower prices, communications minister Masatoshi Ishida told a press conference following a cabinet meeting.

More than 60 percent of the Japanese population own smartphones, and the number jumps to 84 percent when including tablets and other devices.

The nation’s households spent an average of 100,250 yen on mobile fees in 2017, about 3 percent of their overall expenditures, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

It is understood that SoftBank Corp and KDDI have already confirmed they will comply with the new rules, while NTT DOCOMO has committed to adopting new plans from spring 2019. The changes are expected to level the playing field and put the big three on a similar footing to MVNOs which currently command roughly 10% of the overall market. The amendment is expected to pass during the current Diet session (i.e. through June).

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