Japanese open RAN pioneer Rakuten Mobile revealed plans to reduce capex over the next three years, targeting a JPY100 billion ($742.4 million) reduction this year in a move designed to accelerate its path to profit.

In its Q1 earnings release, Rakuten Mobile outlined a move to slice JPY300 billion from its network budget from 2023 to 2025.

JPY200 billion is now earmarked for network spend this year.

Chairman Mickey Mikitani noted on its earnings call a new roaming deal with KDDI will enable it to deliver “a significant improvement in user experience and contribute to our financial health” by lowering network costs and operating expenses.

Rakuten Mobile stated roaming costs will increase slightly compared with its original capex plan, but overall expenses will decrease, with no change in its cost reduction target of JPY15 billion a month.

Mikitani added roaming costs will drop steadily going forward.

Rakuten Mobile closed March with 98.4 per cent population coverage, with 57,400 4G sites deployed across Japan.

It targets 99.9 per cent coverage by June.

Mikitani said churn had declined dramatically, noting new data plans which eliminate a previous limit on high-speed data in domestic roaming areas are designed to reduce the metric to a level below rivals.

Operating loss fell from JPY132.3 billion in Q1 2022 to JPY102.7 billion in the recent period, in part due to lower roaming costs.

It booked operating revenue of JPY96.3 billion, up 25.7 per cent.

ARPU rose to JPY2,752 with the transition to pricing plans launched in May 2022, Mikitani said, without disclosing a percentage.

New Saiyo plans introduced today (12 May) offer data usage nationwide, including all roaming areas from 1 June. Fees range from JPY980 for 3GB a month to JPY2,980 for unlimited usage.