Japanese operator KDDI announced it will join rivals NTT Docomo and SoftBank in launching commercial 5G service this week, initially covering areas in 15 prefectures, with plans to reach major cities nationwide after June.

In a statement, the second-ranked operator in Japan by subscribers said it will introduce 5G service on 26 March, offering seven 5G smartphones from Samsung Electronics, Sony, Sharp, Oppo, Xiaomi and ZTE.

Makoto Takahashi, president and CEO of KDDI, said the company is ready to offer new services to customers, based on “the advanced 5G and 4G hybrid network”, offering augmented experiences with unlimited charges. Its 5G Max plan is priced JPY3,460 ($31.41) a month. Basic data plans start at JPY1,980 a month for 1GB.

The operator plans to deploy 10,000 5G base stations by March 2021 and 20,000 sites by March 2022.

Market leader Docomo last week revealed plans for a launch which would give it bragging rights in terms of being first to offer a commercial 5G service, due on 25 March, while SoftBank will commence service two days later, initially in Tokyo, Osaka, Hiroshima City and the broader prefecture, and some areas in Chiba and Aichi prefectures.

Meanwhile, KDDI signed an agreement with Showroom Co to develop what it says is a new video viewing experience for the 5G era, with an investment planned through the operator’s Open Innovation Fund 3.

Showroom Co offers a live VR platform allowing performers and viewers to communicate in real time.