Rakuten Mobile was forced to scale back its ambitious nationwide launch planned for 1 October, as the Japanese newcomer faces delays deploying base stations in some cities, Nikkei Asian Review reported.
A company representative said a shortage of construction workers stemming from high demand from the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympic Games in 2020, slowed the installation of base stations, the newspaper wrote.
The source noted the operator is focused on Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka, but doesn’t have enough sites in other city centres.
Hiroshi Mikitani, chairman and CEO of Rakuten, the operator’s parent company, told reporters last week: “We will absolutely have the bases ready in time for October”, but noted it would start with a “small launch” with limited service, Nikkei Asian Review reported.
It is expected to gradually expand coverage after the October launch, but didn’t specify locations or a timeframe.
Japan’s Ministry of Communications last month told Rakuten to accelerate the deployment after the company said it was behind schedule, with less than half of its targeted 3,400 base stations in place at end-June.
Rakuten, which was cleared to become Japan’s fourth mobile operator in April 2018, has a deal with KDDI allowing it to roam on its MVNO partner’s 4G network in return for helping it launch a payment service.