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Japan targets nationwide 5G rollout in two years

  • April 10, 2019
  • , Nikkei Asian Review , 12:59 p.m.
  • English Press

TOKYO — Japan’s government on Wednesday approved plans by four mobile network operators to build superfast fifth-generation wireless networks, requiring them to offer service in every prefecture within two years.


Applications submitted by NTT Docomo, KDDI, SoftBank and Rakuten were approved by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications on Wednesday. E-commerce group Rakuten is a newcomer that plans to begin 4G services in October.


All four providers plan to begin commercial 5G services in 2020, later than the U.S. and South Korea, which launched 5G networks last week.


The government wants industry to build out 5G infrastructure on a wide basis, from big metropolises to rural areas. It expects the technology to enable self-driving buses and telemedicine, and to help the country make up for its worker shortage.


The conditions required for receiving 5G spectrum included starting services in every prefecture within two years. The Communications Ministry also divided Japan into 4,500 blocks, requiring operators to set up base stations in at least half of them within five years.


The requirement will force mobile operators into a difficult balancing act: heavy investments on one side, profits on the other.


The government is already pressuring the carriers to cut their service rates. And the entrance of Rakuten, which is targeting 15 million subscribers, is expected to intensify price competition.

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