TOKYO: Outgoing Prime Minister SUGA Yoshihide has been a driving force behind marked drops in mobile phone rates in Japan, a key policy area for Suga since his days as chief cabinet secretary.
Japanese mobile charges tended to be high by international standards, but the situation changed dramatically in spring, when NTT Docomo Inc. and rival carriers introduced low-cost smartphone plans costing less than 3,000 yen per month.
As a former communications minister with a strong grip on the industry, Suga pushed carriers to lower fees even before he became prime minister in September last year.
In August 2018, when he was chief cabinet secretary, Suga sent a shockwave to the industry by saying that there was room to lower rates by 40 percent.
Reforms of complicated price plans progressed after that. The costs of handsets were separated from telecommunications fees.
Suga did not ease his pressure after taking the helm of the government.
NTT Docomo gave in and unveiled its “ahamo” low-cost mobile plan with a 20-gigabyte data package in December last year.
Other major carriers KDDI Corp. and SoftBank Corp. quickly followed, altering their strategies and releasing similar 20GB plans costing less than 3,000 yen.
The wave of price cuts has spread to services with low data volume. SoftBank released a 3GB plan costing 900 yen per month this summer.
“Mobile fee drops came true so quickly,” MM Research Institute Ltd. executive Hideaki Yokota said. “It was something only Suga could do with his experience as communications minister and his influence over relevant administrative organizations.”
Officials of major mobile phone carriers heaved sighs of relief at the news that Suga intends to step down as prime minister. But mobile rate cuts appeal to the public, Yokota said.
It is unlikely that the successor of Suga will shift the policy of promoting fee cuts greatly.