Announced January 29, Rakuten Mobile’s UN-LIMIT VI plan is sending waves through the global telecom industry. As the plan automatically scales down the monthly fee for those using less data — right down to zero yen for those using less than 1GB — it gives even more reason for light users to try out Rakuten’s service, while maintaining the simplicity of having one single plan. One driving force behind this quest for simplicity is Rakuten CMO Naho Kono.
Since full-scale commercial launch in April 2020, Rakuten Mobile has offered just one single plan: Rakuten UN-LIMIT. And this straightforward pricing strategy has turned heads across Japan and the industry. Subscribers could enjoy unlimited data use, unlimited domestic calling and even global roaming for a monthly fee of 2,980 yen — some 70% cheaper than similar offerings from other operators.
Later in the year, Rakuten Mobile announced an update to the UN-LIMIT plan to include 5G service at no additional cost, before going on to abolish the (largely unpopular) sign-up fees, phone number transfer fees and cancelation fees that are standard with most other Japanese carriers.
Unlimited plans are nothing new for overseas carriers, but Rakuten Mobile’s new pricing plan — with free service for less than 1GB of data usage — is not just a Japan-first, it’s also unique on the world stage.Naho Kono, Rakuten CMO
“When I caught wind that we were entering the mobile industry, the first thing that came to my mind was how complicated the business has become,” she explains. “So many service plans were completely incomprehensible to the very users they were supposed to serve, with all sorts of restrictions. So we started from this desire to change the industry.”
Signing up with a mobile carrier in Japan is a notoriously difficult process, with countless different service plans to choose from and a sign-up process that can keep customers waiting at the shop for hours to have their contract explained and account opened. With just one affordable option to choose from with everything included, Rakuten Mobile’s UN-LIMIT plan is designed to work for every kind of customer.
“Everyone involved in designing the plan was focused on this idea of how to make it as simple as possible,” Kono relates. “We saw that it was necessary to return to the fundamentals and offer something that customers would have no trouble understanding.”
In the months after signing up with Rakuten Mobile, these new users are trying out other services like Rakuten Ichiba, Rakuten Card and Rakuten Points. So not only are we looking to leverage the Rakuten Ecosystem to attract existing users to Mobile, but we’re also using Rakuten Mobile to boost the Rakuten Ecosystem.
Rakuten Ecosystem: More than 70 services
“The name Rakuten in front of Mobile gives customers certain expectations of a Rakuten-like service,” Kono explains. “We have built up a lot of trust through our other services, of which there are more than 70 in Japan.”
Rakuten’s Ecosystem is connected by its immensely popular loyalty points program, which have undoubtedly played a role in attracting many users to the new platform. “Today, whenever we launch a new service, we are able to leverage the power of the Rakuten Group to quickly promote the service and gain users,” Kono says. “That was definitely a plus when launching Rakuten Mobile.”
For those using other Rakuten services, Rakuten Mobile is yet another facet of everyday life where they can apply their hard-earned Rakuten Points — which can also be used to pay monthly mobile bills. “You can get away with not using any cash at all for the service.”
“The ecosystem already has over 100 million members in Japan. It’s huge,” Kono explains. “But one exciting thing we’re seeing with Rakuten Mobile is that it’s not just existing users, but also new users who are joining. Around 15% are users who hadn’t been using Rakuten until now — new customers are coming from outside the ecosystem.”
This influx of new users, attracted by simple and affordable mobile service, is having a flow-on effect to the rest of the Rakuten Ecosystem, Kono says.
“The data is showing us that in the months after signing up with Rakuten Mobile, these new users are trying out other services like Rakuten Ichiba, Rakuten Card and Rakuten Points,” she reveals. “So not only are we looking to leverage the Rakuten Ecosystem to attract existing users to Mobile, but we’re also using Rakuten Mobile to boost the Rakuten Ecosystem even further.”
The cutting-edge technology we’re using in the network is of course phenomenal for driving down costs and boosting network speed, but it’s really how we’re tailoring the service for users that should be garnering the most attention.
Making waves worldwide with technology and pricing strategy
While Rakuten Mobile’s service is currently limited to Japan, it has been making global headlines for its bold steps towards next-gen telecommunications technologies. Kono believes that the service’s simple pricing strategy is also cutting-edge on the world stage.
“Unlimited plans are nothing new for overseas carriers, but Rakuten Mobile’s new pricing plan — with free service for less than 1GB of data usage — is not just a Japan-first, it’s also unique on the world stage,” she says. “The cutting-edge technology we’re using in the network is of course phenomenal for driving down costs and boosting network speed, but it’s really how we’re tailoring the service for users that should be garnering the most attention from the greater industry. I wouldn’t be surprised to see similar plans coming from other global carriers.”
For Kono, Rakuten Mobile’s revolutionary network has always been about building something simple and affordable that can become part of everyday life.
“This is really the original reason we decided to start the Rakuten Mobile business,” she reveals. “The end goal of the Rakuten Group as a whole is to provide infrastructure that solves a range of different challenges faced by society. This is our company philosophy: We’re working to empower people and society.”