MNP – Is Son-san the real “Yoso-Guy” at Softbank Mobile?

Masayoshi SonLess than one hour ago, Softbank Mobile‘s charistmatic CEO, Masayoshi Son, just completed an unexpected (予想外) press conference at the New Ohtani. Just as reported last week, Mobile Number Portability (MNP) is starting this week in Japan and promises to upset the comfortable duopoly of DoCoMo and Au. recevied a lot of email from readers suggesting that MNP would be a non-event, but it appears as though that is not the case. Son-san wants to join these two giants in the big technological sand pit they call success.

Following on from his amusing 予想外 TV commercial series featured last week, Son-san has made an even more unexpected announcement today. Anyone who signs up for Softbank’s new “Gold Plan” will be entitled to a Yosogaiwari (予想外割):

  • Free email,
  • Free SMS,
  • Free voice to other Softbank subscribers…
  • and as an extra teaser the first two months are completely free (including the monthly fee).

Good-bye to hard to understand teigaku (fixed price) plans, the only thing that you will have to pay for are calls to non-Softbank subscribers and access to internet sites. Better yet, the entire package will only cost you 2,880 yen per month. Given that the average person spends about 7,000 yen per month on their phone bill, that could save you about 50,000 yen a year. (Multiply that by a family of four!!)

So, you say (As I would expect any cynical reader of to ask), what is the fine print? Son mentioned in the press conference that this deal is only available until January 15, 2007. Interestingly, Son claims that everyone who signs up between now and Jan 15 is entitled to the 2,880 yen / month plan for ever (this guy is serious).

Clearly the other “catches” have to do with what is not free. Son didn’t go into details about the pricing of calls to other carriers or the packet charge rate for accessing the internet, but absent of a large hidden price rise, this should be cheap too (Softbank is well known to be the cheapest carrier in Japan). Furthermore, Son made it very clear that it is his intention to win both the battle and the war. If either DoCoMo or Au announce reactory price cuts, he’s promised to respond with a similar package – only 200 yen per month cheaper – within 24 hours.

sbkeitailogoThe only potential “catch” that we could think of was to do with area coverage/bandwidth. After Willcom introduced unlimited free calls and email between Willcom users, their network suffered serious capacity issues and had to rapidly speed up their infrastructure expansion plans. No doubt Softbank will suffer the same problem. Son has promised to double Softbank’s area coverage (number of base stations) by next March which should help stem some of the increased usage, but who knows if he will complete it in time?

Eyes and ears are now focused on Au and DoCoMo to see how they will react to such a move. yosogaiwariSon made it very clear in his presentation tonight that he had no intention of letting DoCoMo and Au continue to earn their monopoly profits. (Remember these companies made a total of 15 billion US dollars of profit between them last year!!) And so, may the games begin!

58 thoughts on “MNP – Is Son-san the real “Yoso-Guy” at Softbank Mobile?”

  1. I beg to differ with Red. To get on their kazoku-wari (family plan) au most definitely asks for proof that you are family, at least at the au shop in Ebisu. The girl and myself went in their with the aim of me getting her keitai bills paid by my credit card. We were living together at the time and I was sick of her getting cut off because she didn’t go to the convenience store to pay her bill on time. “No way!” I was told. Proof that we were family was required. I told the guy that you can do it at Softbank (talking out my arse of course, I have no idea what Softbank offers). The au chump then told me “Softbank is very ‘about’ (meaning lax I guess) and au is more “proper.” That was six months back.

    The girl and I went in again last week to get on the family plan. Yes, they certainly asked again for proof of family–only this time we were armed with our marriage certificate!

  2. Thanks for the heads up Smoke-ring. Perhaps I was just lucky. It was a little while ago but a friend of mine at workl did it at the Akasaka shop: (Akasaka 3-4-4)

    or should I say, my brother did… pardon me…

  3. Hi I have just been in Japan for a couple weeks and now plan to buy some mobile phones. I think that softbank will be the first choice I decide. But There are one question.!! In case that we receive the call from oversea, are there any charges for these picking up. Anyway I tried to find the detail from softbank ‘s website, it didnot tell anything for receiving call charge. My friends told me that no matter what you make a call or receive a call from overseas, there will be addtional charges. Is it true? Anyay please make me clear. Thank a lot.

  4. Yes, you normally get charged 250 yen per minute if you pick up a call from overseas. But if you believe that you would probably believe that Santa Claus exists and America has free speech.

  5. funny you mention that smoke-ring as in America they actually charge you to receive a call even if it is domestic! That is why people always switch off their mobiles when they are on business trips as they don’t want to pay to talk to you. now that is a whacky system. Bee, I think the US is the only country with such a system

  6. Bee, as the only person here that thinks your question needs a good answer, no, you don’t need to pay when you receive a call in Japan.

    But, you also only need one phone.. no need to buy “phones”.

  7. “Docomo – to launch Japanese language Blackberrys in Japan from June 11.” (Today’s Nikkei)

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