Japan’s largest operator says the network will be available in 150 initial locations

As we have seen throughout the world, when it comes to 5G, being first is seen to be very important. Perhaps this is why NTT has announced that the launch of their commercial 5G network will take place on the 25th of March, pipping rival SoftBank to the post after they said earlier this month they would launch on the 27th. 
The network will initially launch in 150 locations around the country, with a rapid expansion goal of at least one network base station in each of the country’s 47 prefectures by the end of June. Ultimately, NTT Docomo hope to have reached 500 towns and cities by March next year.
“Going forward, DOCOMO is committed to steadily expanding and enhancing its 5G network service to create new value for society and to make customers’ lives more convenient and fulfilling,” said an NTT Docomo spokesperson.
NTT Docomo currently expects customers to pay handsomely for its 5G services, with a range of 5G monthly plans available from ¥1,980 (~£15) for 1GB of data, up to ¥5,480 (~£42) for 100GB. SoftBank, by contrast, is offering 5G network access as an add-on to existing plans for an additional ¥1,000 (~£8).
Rival KDDI’s 5G launch date has still yet to be unveiled, but is expected soon according to a plan described at the start of the year. Similarly, newcomer Rakuten will also be somewhat hot on their heels, with plans to commercially launch 4G in April and 5G in June. Rakuten’s 4G pricing plan is incredibly aggressive, charging customers around half of what they are currently playing for connectivity and offering the first three million subscribers free services for a year. If their 5G strategy is equally as provocative, the existing Japanese operators may have to adapt quickly to remain competitive.  
However, the coronavirus outbreak is threatening to wreak havoc when it comes to delaying 5G deployment plans. Whether KDDI and Rakuten’s commercial rollouts are being significantly affected by the pandemic remains to be seen, but if so this could give NTT Docomo and SoftBank a bit of breathing room to feel out the 5G market. 
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