Rakuten Steams Ahead With Mobile Ambitions


Rakuten announced 2.5 million customers had applied for a free unlimited mobile offer by February 8, as the operator continued to accelerate a rollout across Japan.

The mobile unit recorded revenue of JPY60.7 billion (US$577.9 million) in Q4 2020, up 16.8 per cent year-on-year, albeit the figure is not directly comparable as it was still in MVNO mode during Q4 2019.

Operating loss of JPY75.4 billion was 43.8 per cent lower.

The company launched commercial services on its own infrastructure in April 2020, followed by 5G in September.

Parent Rakuten said expansion of its mobile service coverage, along with various marketing strategies had proved successful.

It said customer acquisition from both in and outside the Rakuten ecosystem continued to grow, while reiterating its aim to reach 96 per cent of the population by constructing around 44,000 base stations throughout the year. The operating loss was attributed to investment in future growth areas, including swifter rollout of base station installations, which was happening five years ahead of schedule.

Future 4G Capex is expected to be 30 per cent to 40 per cent from a base of JPY600 billion.

For the deployment of its virtualised network offering, the company pointed to an MoU with Telefonica to cooperate on open RAN and STC to collaborate on strategic mobile technology.

“In addition, increased collaboration between Rakuten’s digital content services and the mobile service is aimed at realising further synergies,” the company stated.

From this year, it aims to do this through the transition segments of certain businesses and subsidiaries such as its digital content business, Rakuten Kobo, transferring to the mobile segment.

At group level, Q4 revenue increased 16 per cent to JPY415.3 billion, driven by gains in domestic e-commerce, which grew 35.1 per cent, and a 16.2 per cent increase in internet services.

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