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On Mobile Number Portability in Japan and Softbank October 31, 2006

Posted by fukumimi in Communications, Internet, IT, Japan.

MNP (mobile number portability) began in Japan last week, and the first week has been fairly interesting, with Softbank again being in the news.

MNP is a scheme whereby you can take your mobile phone number with you when you switch carriers, something that was not possible in Japan until last week. (Importantly, in this land where we have grown accustomed to email rather than SMS on mobile phones, you can’t take your old email address)

Anyway, Softbank launched a PR blitz to coincide with the MNP start, announcing “Zero Yen calls and SMS/MMS” (but with the small print saying that the calls/messaging have to be between Softbank users, and this applied only if you subscribed to a 27 month contract, with hefty charges for early cancellation, and MMS/mail is subject to an additional 300 yen/mth charge). The Fair Trade Commission has announced that it is launching an investigation into this advertising campaign, fearing that it might be misleading (hmm. I wonder who might have complained)

Then, on the weekend, as users rushed to take advantage of MNP, Softbank’s MNP management system went down. Softbank announced that this was due to the unexpectedly high number of users who had attempted to switch over.

Today, KDDI(au) and NTT DoCoMo announced figures for the subscriber gains/losses for the week since MNP kicked off. Softbank declined to publish figures.

KDDI is claiming a net gain of approx 80,000 users, 101,200 new users joining from other networks and 20,600 who left au to go elsewhere. DoCoMo says they lost 60,000 users net (within expected range), though they point out they had a net gain of 3,000 users between themselves and Softbank. That would mean that Softbank actually lost at least 20,000 users last week. Regardless of Masayoshi Son’s attempt to make the system failure fiasco look like a victim of Softbank’s success, it would appear that Softbank is loosing customers. The losses may have been bigger if their systems had not gone down.

The media is crawling all over this story, a news programme last night had one of its reporters visit the flagship Softbank store in Roppongi in the evening, to see how long it would take to make the switch to Softbank. The reporter waited for more than two hours before her number came up, only to be told that her request could not be processed immediately and the earliest she could get a new phone would be the next morning….. Couldn’t they have told people who were waiting that it was unlikely that they would be able to process them, before making them wait a couple of hours?

So, Round One of the MNP battle seems to show KDDI/au as the clear winner, with Softbank being the biggest loser with the negative publicity it has received.

In other news, KDDI launches its SNS service in collaboration with GREE, the #2 Japanese SNS site on Nov 16th…


1. Akatsuka - November 11, 2006

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On Mobile Number Portability in Japan and Softbank | from the inside, looking in

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