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Rakuten Mobile delays start of independent service until spring 2020

The Rakuten logo is seen in this photo taken on June 11, 2019. (Mainichi/Yosei Kozano)

TOKYO -- Rakuten Mobile Inc. will delay the full rollout of its service as a mobile network operator (MNO) from its originally scheduled October start to the spring of 2020, sources close to the matter revealed on Sept. 5.

For Rakuten Mobile to become a new major player in the telecommunications market with its own network, the firm has been preparing base stations and other infrastructure. However, due to delays in this work, the company decided the current infrastructure would not be able to handle large volumes of traffic in October. The delay is a setback for the government, which has supported the firm's foray into the MNO market.

Until full-scale operations can begin, the company says it will limit its MNO service to just around 5,000 users, who will receive it free of charge.

Rakuten's entry into the MNO market has brought expectations that it could break the monopoly enjoyed by NTT Docomo Inc., KDDI Corp. and SoftBank Corp., and speed up competition on pricing. In Rakuten's plan to build a communications network with new technology, the establishment of a potential 3,432 base stations has been approved by authorities.

While preparations continue in the Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka metropolitan areas, the company has tried to launch its nationwide service by piggybacking on networks operated by KDDI in other regions.

(Japanese original by Akiko Kato, Business News Department)

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