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Japan's big 3 mobile carriers to waive some data fees for young users amid virus spread

This file photo shows an NTT Docomo sign (Mainichi/Yukiko Murata)
The au logo is seen in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward. (Mainichi/Kazuhisa Soneda)
The Softbank logo is seen in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward. (Mainichi/Kazuhisa Soneda)

TOKYO -- Japan's top three mobile phone companies have announced they will eliminate some additional charges for data plans for users aged 25 and under, as more young people take classes online amid social distancing measures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The announcement by the three companies -- NTT Docomo Inc., KDDI Corp., operator of the au brand, and SoftBank Corp. -- followed a request from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications on April 3.

As a result of the spread of the virus, many universities have delayed the start of regular lessons until late April and are holding classes online for the time being. But this could cause those without unlimited Wi-Fi connections to run out of mobile data, or end up having to pay extra fees for additional data usage.

Many mobile phone plans limit the amount of cellular data that can be used each month, and when that limit is exceeded, data speeds are throttled. When this happens, users normally have to purchase additional data priced at around 1,000 yen per gigabyte if they want to keep accessing the internet at a comfortable speed. With the latest move, the charge for additional data for young users will be waived up to 50 gigabytes.

Noting that many students are likely receiving lessons through laptop computers and other devices at home, Softbank and KDDI will also remove monthly charges for tethering, or connecting another device to the internet through a smartphone.

A representative of one of the phone companies says the move is likely to negatively affect earnings.

(Japanese original by Atsuko Motohashi, Business News Department)

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