NTT Docomo reportedly proposed to undercut rivals with amended data pricing, setting the stage for a tariff war as Japanese operators respond to government pressure for more affordable services and work to convert subscribers to 5G offers.

Nikkei Asia stated Docomo is preparing a 20GB package priced JPY3,000 ($28.78) per month. On its website, it lists a current plan with the same data allowance for JPY6,000, albeit with various discounts available.

The operator is also said to be working out final pricing for data packages and is considering lowering the price of 5G plans.

Rival SoftBank Corp aims to introduce a budget plan offering 20GB for JPY4,480 a month later this month. KDDI is plotting the introduction of a tariff priced JPY3,980 for the same data allowance or JPY1,980 for a 3GB plan from February 2021 through its UQ Mobile brand.

In September, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga called on operators to lower mobile tariffs, part of a longstanding bugbear over what he regards as excessive fees. The government subsequently set out a three-tiered strategy to cut prices and improve clarity for consumers.

Mickey Mikitani, chairman and CEO of Rakuten Mobile, last month played down the potential pressure on its own fees when the newcomer begins charging customers in April 2021, noting its plan will be 71 per cent cheaper than its established rivals.

However, Marc Einstein, chief analyst at Japan-based research company ITR, told Mobile World Live Rakuten Mobile and MVNOs are comparatively less competitive, with the cuts likely slowing the development of 5G services in the country.

He noted a rebalancing of plans is required soon because data allotments will need to be increased with 5G services gaining traction.