SoftBank joins ultrafast 5G race as domestic competition heats up

SoftBank Corp on Friday launched its ultrafast 5G wireless offerings, joining rivals NTT Docomo and KDDI Corp in a battle to attract customers looking for seamless video and game streaming.

The mobile communications unit of SoftBank Group Corp’s 5G services will initially cover only some parts of seven prefectures in Japan, including Tokyo and Osaka.

NTT Docomo started its 5G services on last wednesday and KDDI, which operates the “au” brand, did so a day later.

Rakuten Inc., set to make a full-scale entry into the mobile phone market on April 8, plans to launch its 5G operation in June.

SoftBank will charge an additional 1,000 yen per month for 5G services, but will exempt existing and new customers for two years via a campaign that will run through the end of August.

Customers are required to purchase a new 5G capable handset. SoftBank put on sale two types on Friday and plans to introduce another two by summer.

The new 5G technology is expected to enable users to send and receive data some 100 times faster than the current 4G networks, allowing smartphone users to download a two-hour movie in a few seconds.

Besides mobile phones, the new technology is also expected to be used for industrial purposes in areas such as autonomous driving and remote clinical services.

Such 5G services have already been launched in more than 30 countries including the United States and China.