Rakuten Mobile chairman and CEO Mickey Mikitani (pictured) revealed many customers are not heavy mobile data users, as the Japanese operator unveiled a tariff tailored to the trend.

The flexible data plan follows moves by the nation’s operators to offer more affordable and easy-to-understand packages. In an online briefing today (29 January), Mikitani explained Rakuten Mobile found 66 per cent use less than 5GB of data per month.

Due to financial reasons, “there a quite a few people” in Japan who are unable to access smartphones, meaning operators must adapt to achieve a goal of providing “high-quality, high-speed service to everyone”.

Mikitani noted Rakuten Mobile does have some “extremely heavy users, as 5G data usage is growing”: the operator’s mission is “to design a plan for both”.

Its Unlimit VI plan is free for customers using up to 1GB a month, JPY980 ($9.34) for 1GB to 3GB; JPY1,980 for up to 20GB; and JPY2,980 for more than 20GB.

He said 5G service is available for no extra charge and unlimited domestic calls are free on- and off-net.

Existing customers will automatically be upgraded to the new plan on 1 April, with fees applied after a year-long offer expires.

So far, 2.2 million users have applied for Rakuten Mobile’s free unlimited offer, which is open to the first 3 million applicants, Mikitani said.

He highlighted the tariff can be chosen in stores as well as online, a difference to rival operators which are offering discounts for online customers only.

Mikitani argued online-only plans increase the digital divide: “We want to make it easy for everyone to sign up.”

Since launching commercial services in April 2020, the operator has deployed 11,500 base stations nationwide, giving it 73.5 per cent population coverage, with the aim to hit 96 per cent around the middle of the year, when “most of our services will be provided by our own network”.