LIVE FROM GSMA MOBILE WORLD CONGRESS SHANGHAI 2017: KDDI president Takashi Tanaka said Japanese operators cannot afford to wait for 5G and IoT technologies to become a commercial reality and outlined steps they can take today to maintain revenue growth.

Speaking during the opening keynote at Mobile World Congress Shanghai, Tanaka said KDDI is increasingly looking to value-added services (VAS) to maintain revenue growth and offset losses caused by increasingly strong competition from MVNOs in the market. Growth is becoming hard to come by because LTE is now a mature technology in Japan: population coverage and device penetration both stand at over 99 per cent, he explained.

MVNOs, meanwhile, registered a 28 per cent year-on-year rise in subscriber numbers during December 2016, piling pressure on Japan’s established operators.

“We are waiting for the 5G era to come,” Tanaka said, noting “KDDI is transforming.”

The transformation is being led by au ID, a system enabling users to access services and content on mobile phones using a common identification system. The service spans retail and mobile wallet services, and Tanaka said KDDI recently started offering access to utilities.

VAS are already showing promise, with their contribution to KDDI’s overall revenue growing 11 per cent through 2016 compared with a marginal 0.7 per cent rise in traditional telephony services sales.