Rakuten Mobile unveiled the details of its mobile plan today at a press conference in downtown Tokyo. Dubbed “Rakuten UN-LIMIT,” the new mobile carrier service plan is available for the industry-disrupting price of 2,980 yen per month, and offers both unlimited data within Rakuten network areas and unlimited domestic calls through Rakuten Link, a communication app developed by Rakuten. The company also announced a launch campaign offering 3 million subscribers the first full year of service free of monthly fees.
“For around two years, the Rakuten Group and Rakuten Mobile have been building a new network unlike anything the world has ever seen,” Rakuten CEO Mickey Mikitani stated at the conference. “Everyone at Rakuten is working together to democratize the mobile industry.”
Announcing Rakuten Mobile’s pricing for the first time, Mikitani promised to do away with the complicated offerings typical of the mobile industry. “Rakuten will become the only major carrier in the world to offer a single pricing plan. Currently, we aren’t looking to launch any other plans.”
Mikitani also emphasized Rakuten Mobile’s position in one of Japan’s strongest ecosystems, explaining how Rakuten’s broad membership base would support growth of the mobile network. “Rakuten Mobile isn’t an isolated business. It’s part of an ecosystem that has more than 100 million members in Japan.”
Technological innovation translates to savings for customers
Rakuten Mobile has developed the world’s first fully virtualized mobile network. This network architecture allows for substantial reductions in capital investment and operation costs, enabling the operator to pass on these savings to subscribers through a low cost, simple service plan. The architecture also enables flexible deployment of new services and lays the groundwork for a speedy implementation of 5G at previously unimaginable price points. Rakuten Mobile aims to offer comprehensive communications services combining flexible service plans and cutting-edge technology, while leveraging synergies with the Rakuten Ecosystem and Rakuten Points loyalty program, to continue to improve services for subscribers.
“We are extremely delighted with what we have accomplished in Japan,” said Rakuten Mobile Director and CTO Tareq Amin at the event, explaining how the network’s revolutionary architecture allows for cost reductions of up to 40%. “We have deployed the world’s first Open RAN platform… not because the phrase ‘Open RAN’ sounds like good technology, but because there are cost reductions that we feel an obligation to pass on to consumers in Japan.”
“We are one of the only telecommunications networks that can claim to have standardized, 100% open interfaces, and full control of our software and network framework,” he continued. “This is something that we are so extremely proud of. Thank you to all of the employees and partners that made this vision.”
Boldly going where no mobile network has gone before
Rakuten Mobile Representative Director and President Yoshihisa Yamada outlined Rakuten’s journey to complete mobile coverage around Japan. “Over the past year, we’ve built Rakuten Mobile base stations covering Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka,” he explained. “By March 2021, we’re scheduled to have base stations in every prefecture in Japan, and we’re looking to beat that schedule by a significant margin.”
But the team isn’t looking to stop at near-perfect coverage of the Japanese population. In a surprise move, Rakuten announced that it has invested in AST & Science’s space venture to extend mobile coverage in the future to people and devices across the planet regardless of where they are, using the first mobile broadband network that will be broadcast from space.
From space to your smartphone
Branded SpaceMobile, the low-Earth-orbit (LEO), low-latency satellite network from AST & Science will be the first in the world to connect directly to standard smartphones. The company holds an extensive patent and IP portfolio for its ground and space technologies.
“SpaceMobile will be particularly transformative to the growing US$1 trillion annual global mobile market because it will eliminate the coverage gaps faced by today’s five billion mobile subscribers moving in and out of connectivity every day,” said AST & Science Chairman and CEO Abel Avellan. “It will also help the world’s most under-served communities to access the latest mobile services much sooner than predicted, helping more people to access the digital economy.”
Breaking down Rakuten UN-LIMIT
Rakuten UN-LIMIT aims to offer subscribers a mobile plan that is simple, straightforward and easy-to-use for all subscribers, both in Japan and overseas. For a monthly fee of 2,980 yen, subscribers can enjoy unlimited data use within the Rakuten network service areas and 2GB of data per month within the service areas provided by both domestic and overseas Rakuten partners. With use of the Rakuten Link app, all calls and text messages within Japan, as well as calls and text messages from overseas to Japan, will also be free of charge for 66 countries and regions around the world. Additionally, an optional international calling service offering unlimited international calls from Japan to overseas as well as calls between overseas locations will be available for a monthly fee of 980 yen starting April 8.
Advance applications for new contracts will open online at 4 p.m. today and will be accepted from March 4 in Rakuten Mobile stores. The full service will launch on April 8, with applications to switch to the new plan for subscribers of the Free Supporter Program and existing Rakuten Mobile MVNO service users, in addition to MNP (mobile number portability) contracts for those switching from other carriers also being accepted online and in-store from that day.
Interested in finding out more about Rakuten Mobile’s unique approach to redefining expectations for mobile services? Watch the archived video of today’s press conference here.