KDDI au's new monthly plan for smartphone users
includes a voice service at 2,700 yen ($26.46) a month, matching
prices of similar plans announced earlier this month by industry
leader NTT DoCoMo and Softbank Corp.
Including data services and after discounts, KDDI au's average
revenue per user (ARPU) is currently around 4,150 yen per month,
down from 5,800 yen five years ago. With the new plan, that is
likely to rise as even the cheapest, flat-rate voice and data
plan would cost around 6,500 yen.
All three providers have said they plan to eventually terminate
their existing pricing plans, a move likely to prove unpopular
with consumers, if not regulators.
Smartphone users are increasingly shifting to free messaging and
calling applications such as WhatsApp and Line.
Line, owned by South Korea's Naver Corp and particularly popular
in Japan, allows users to text and call from smartphones,
without being charged for a cell call.
A recent survey by Rakuten Research showed 61 percent of
respondents didn't want a 2,700 yen monthly voice plan.
The government has been criticizing carriers for giving
consumers little choice over data plans, although they have held
back from taking action so far.
Takashi Tanaka, KDDI's chief executive, acknowledged the pricing
may be considered too high.
"To be honest, it might be a bit expensive," he told a news
($1 = 102.05 Japanese yen)
(Reporting by Teppei Kasai; Editing by Matt Driskill)
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