KDDI Corporation, Okinawa Cellular Telephone Company, and Rakuten Mobile, Inc. have announced a revised roaming agreement beginning in June 2023.
The companies' joint statement emphasizes that the agreement will run until September 2026 as part of their strategic initiative to strengthen fair competition in Japan's mobile industry.
Since its full launch in April 2020, Rakuten Mobile has significantly expanded its 4G network to cover 98% of the population as of October 2022.
This, combined with KDDI's commitment to providing roaming services through its AU network, led to re-evaluating the previous roaming agreement.
Under the new agreement, KDDI will extend its roaming services to Rakuten Mobile in previously uncovered areas.
These include high-traffic shopping areas in Tokyo's 23 wards and the cities of Osaka and Nagoya.
In addition, KDDI will continue to provide roaming services in selected indoor locations, such as subways and underground shopping malls, as well as in rural areas.
The agreement will enable Rakuten Mobile to improve its network connectivity quickly and efficiently, enhancing customer service while reducing its financial burden.
In turn, KDDI will benefit by promoting infrastructure sharing, fostering the effective deployment of its 4G infrastructure, and supporting the rollout of its 5G network.
Rakuten Mobile's CEO, Mickey Mikitani, previously shared his goal of eliminating domestic roaming by the end of 2023.
This initiative could result in significant savings of JPY180 billion ($1.34 billion). It's worth noting that more than 95% of traffic was carried on Rakuten Mobile's network in the fourth quarter of 2022, a significant increase from 83% in the same period of 2021.
The new agreement replaces one reached in 2018, which was due to run until March 2026.
This strategic move marks a significant shift for Rakuten Mobile as it focuses on reducing roaming costs while expanding coverage.