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Softbank borrows JPY35 billion to fund ‘Society 5.0’ 5G build

Japanese operator Softbank played up the societal benefits of 5G as it raised fresh funds for its network rollout.

The company has taken out a so-called ‘social loan’ totalling JPY35 billion ($282 million) from a group of banks. Proceeds from social loans are used exclusively for projects that contribute to solving social issues, and so Softbank has gone to some lengths to highlight how its high-speed mobile network can be used for more than just ordering takeaways and video streaming.

“Japan is facing numerous social issues that include a declining birthrate, ageing population and over-concentration in major cities,” noted Softbank, in a statement.

To counter these issues, the government is pursuing its ‘Society 5.0’ strategy, which aims to leverage the convergence of the physical and virtual worlds in order to balance economic advancement with social welfare. This is quite a break from tradition for a working culture that has historically prioritised long hours, and held a dim view of taking time off. For more on that, check out the massive inforgraphic below (bigger version here), produced by the Japanese government and filed under ‘Abenomics’.

Connectivity obviously has a big role to play in this brave new world, and Softbank said it has identified no fewer than six priority issues, four of which it reckons it can address with 5G.

They are: Building society and industry through digital transformation (DX); connecting people and information to create new excitement; creating new business through open innovation; and building high-quality social communication networks.

“Softbank believes that 5G—thanks to its ultra-high-speeds and high capacity, high reliability and low latency, and massive device connectivity—can help resolve various social issues and realize Society 5.0 as an important infrastructure that is foundational for autonomous driving systems, telemedicine, smart cities and other innovative services, as well as the digital transformation (DX) of industries,” said Softbank. “Softbank also believes that 5G networks can greatly contribute to the birth of new industry sectors and create new value.”

Softbank’s 5G network has been up and running since March 2020, and as of this March it covered more than 90 percent of the population. In rural areas, it is working closely with rival KDDI, not just sharing passive infrastructure but also rolling out a Multi-Operator Radio Access Network (MORAN), in an effort to lower costs and accelerate deployment.

“With the proceeds raised from this social loan, SoftBank will further strengthen and accelerate the rollout of its 5G network,” the operator said this week.

The loan is due to be paid back in full by the end of January 2031.

 

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