Japanese marketplace Rakuten is planning a foray into the mobile and wireless market there by launching its own network apparently to be called RMobile.
Rakuten has received the necessary government approvals and licenses to offer mobile services and expand its business into a market dominated by three major carriers. They have the necessary 4G permission now and expect to launch the service at some point in 2019. The idea is to offer a mobile and wireless service that will complement their ecommerce, streaming and fintech services which include online securities trading.
There is no doubt that mobile devices are the most important user touchpoint for the expansion of existing services and new service development.
It’s reported that Rakuten is hoping to secure at least 15 million subscribers. For comparison, No. 3 carrier SoftBank has about 39 million customers. The other Japanese mobile phone companies are NTT docomo and au by KDDI. Softbank was formerly Vodafone and before that J-phone. Pundits in various sources suggest that the current market is already crowded and competitive.
What is in it for Rakuten if they gain traction in the Japanese mobile and wifi sphere? One benefit, if it succeeds, will be additional revenues and profits. But this seems more like an attempt create an audience that is closely tied into their other services. An RMobile customer can be sold to more easily and enticed to shop on the Rakuten marketplace with promotions and coupons. It will also provide a lot of valuable data about behaviours and habits making it much easier to hone the offers to individuals.
Apparently the last credible attempt by a Japanese company to break into the triopoly was by eMobile and they entered the market in 2007. The company gained four million subscribers before it was bought by SoftBank in 2013. So this may prove a hard nut to crack for Rakuten.