Rakuten decides to compete on price, again


The Japanese greenfield operator Rakuten Mobile has seen its low-price strategy driving fast subscriber growth, so it has decided to double down on its iPhone 12 offers.

Rakuten Mobile announced today that it is introducing the iPhone 12 series to its device portfolio. The main selling point is the carrier positions itself to offer the lowest price iPhones among the four operators.

This is an intensification of Rakuten Mobile’s attack strategy to challenge the other three incumbents (NTT DoCoMo, KDDI, and Softbank) with lower prices and more flexible contract terms. Its latest tariff plans, the so-called “Rakuten Un-limited VI”, announced in January, include 1GB free data on its 4G and 5G networks with monthly fee capped at JPY3,278 ($30) for data package of 20GB or more.

The operator believes this new tariff plan has been a catalyst to the near doubling of its subscriber numbers (which the company insists on calling “applications”) within the past three months, from 2.2 million in January to 3.9 million by the beginning of April. This takes its total number of the subscribers to 4.5 million (including 600,000 on its MVNO network), as was shared at the press conference.

Source: Rakuten Mobile

This Un-limited VI plan will now also apply on the new iPhones. Combining phone price with monthly tariff, Rakuten customers choosing to pay monthly instalments for the device (instead of the one-off payment upfront) could expect to pay between JPY9,182 ($85) a month if they should choose the top model (iPhone 12 Pro Max) on a 24-month payback scheme with an unlimited data plan, and JPY1,149 ($11) if going for the entry model (iPhone SE) on a 48-month payback scheme and less than 1GB monthly data package.

This almost sounds like a non-news, as the latest iPhone line-up has been in the market for half a year. But in Japan, a market where operator channel is still dominant, being ranged by operators is still a significant plus for product sales. Also included in the range are the newly announced purple colour iPhone 12 and the tracking device AirTag.

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