Mobile users across Japan will soon have access to 5G cellular services at a lower price than ever before — potentially, even for free. During a press conference in Tokyo earlier today, Rakuten Mobile once again shocked the telecommunications industry with the announcement of “Rakuten UN-LIMIT VI,” a new and enhanced version of the Rakuten UN-LIMIT V mobile service plan that automatically scales down in price for customers who use less data.
The new service plan, which will come into effect from April 1, 2021, will cater to the diverse needs of customers — from light users who consume very little data, to heavy users who don’t want to have to worry about their monthly data use.
Rakuten Mobile is a new mobile company. There are a lot of hurdles ahead of us. But we’re challenging this status quo. We’re going to turn it upside down. Low-cost, fast and high-quality network coverage for every single person. That’s our goal.Mickey Mikitani, Rakuten CEO
“When we first launched the UN-LIMIT plan, we were targeting people who use a lot of data,” Rakuten CEO Mickey Mikitani explained to journalists at the conference. “That’s why we wanted to offer a simple package with unlimited data and calls for 2,980 yen. That was our goal.”
Free for light users, and still just 2,980 yen for unlimited data
On the new Rakuten UN-LIMIT VI plan, customers who use 1GB of data or less in any given month will pay exactly zero yen. If total monthly data usage is between 1GB and 3GB, the fee will be just 980 yen, while usage between 3GB and 20GB will cost 1,980 yen.
Customers whose data usage exceeds 20GB will continue to enjoy unlimited data for 2,980 yen per month. For customers with more than one Rakuten UN-LIMIT contract, total monthly data usage of 3GB or less will be charged at 980 yen.
After around nine months in business, it has become clear that heavy users aren’t the only customers looking for more reasonable rates. “Some 66% of mobile users in Japan actually use just 5GB or less per month,” he continued. “We’ve come to realize that there are actually a lot of users who barely use much data at all. And yet they’re stuck paying their carriers ludicrous mobile fees.”
You may have heard the term “digital divide” — what we’re doing is something more akin to an “anti-digital divide.” Whether you apply in-store or online, we’re offering one, fair plan for everyone.”Mickey Mikitani, Rakuten CEO
This is something the UN-LIMIT VI plan is looking to address. “To cater to all of these different users, we’re launching a single plan that works for every kind of user in Japan, whether they use a lot of data or not. This is Rakuten’s mission. It’s something we’re determined to do.”
Anyone applying for Rakuten Mobile service from today — as well as all current Rakuten UN-LIMIT customers — will be upgraded to Rakuten UN-LIMIT VI from April 1, 2021.
Right now we’re covering 73.5% of Japan’s population. This will be 80% by March, and 96% by summer this year. This was something we originally envisioned for 2026, so this is coming five years early.Mickey Mikitani, Rakuten CEO
As with previous Rakuten UN-LIMIT plans, customers can use unlimited high-speed data in the Rakuten network area, with a monthly 5GB of high-speed data in domestic roaming partner network areas and 2GB of high-speed data in the 66 countries and regions covered by the overseas roaming partner network areas. Domestic calls made through the Rakuten Link communication app will continue to be free of charge.
In response to other major carriers offering cheaper “online application only” plans, Mikitani passionately advocated for fair pricing for all customers. “To be completely honest with you, I don’t believe cheaper plans should only be available to internet-savvy customers,” he argued. “I think it’s wrong that less savvy users who have to go to physical stores are charged more. You may have heard the term ‘digital divide’ — what we’re doing is something more akin to an ‘anti-digital divide.’ Whether you apply in-store or online, we’re offering one, fair plan for everyone.”
Coverage for everyone, everywhere, from light to heavy users
The first year of Rakuten Mobile service will continue to be completely free for 3 million subscribers. As of the day of the event, Mikitani reported to journalists, there have been over 2.2 million applications for the service.
Network coverage is also expanding rapidly: “Right now we’re covering 73.5% of Japan’s population. This will be 80% by March, and 96% by summer this year,” Mikitani outlined. “This was something we originally envisioned for 2026, so this is coming five years early.”
For 2023, Rakuten Mobile has an even more ambitious coverage goal. “We will be launching a world-first system in which users can connect to the network directly from satellites,” Mikitani revealed. “What that means is that we will achieve a coverage rate — and I’m talking not just about population coverage, but geographical coverage — of 100%. Whether you’re in a remote corner of Japan where no-one lives, or on an uninhabited island, you’ll have Rakuten Mobile reception.”
By launching a plan that flexibly adjusts to give customers the best bang for their yen and eliminating the various fees associated with mobile services, Rakuten Mobile is continuing to make waves in the global telecommunications industry.
“The telecommunications industry has been stuck in the status quo, never able to launch a truly revolutionary service,” Mikitani reflected. “Rakuten Mobile is a new mobile company. There are a lot of hurdles ahead of us. But we’re challenging this status quo. We’re going to turn it upside down. Low-cost, fast and high-quality network coverage for every single person. That’s our goal.”
For more about the announcement, visit here.