business

Rakuten's mobile misadventure: From ambitious plan to millstone

29 Comments
By Anton Bridge

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© Thomson Reuters 2023

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29 Comments
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Good luck to Rakuten.

Their prices are exceptionally good.

You just know that if they were to close down their mobile network.....the big three would immediately up their prices big time.

The big three had it so easy for so long in Japan until Rakuten came along.

Can't believe their market share is only 2.5%.

9 ( +14 / -5 )

Rakuten, one of the worst companies on planet earth

-4 ( +7 / -11 )

If their service really were that good, surely people would be signing up in droves?

-7 ( +8 / -15 )

I have Rakuten sim as back up, it sits in my second sim slot.

I am on business in Nagoya, I have not been able to connect to Rakuten network

Not at the airport, or Nagoya University, Costco or our business premises.

I am all for open fair competition, and a low-cost provider ,however in Rakuten case it would by easier opening a window and screaming through a bullhorn.

It is very frustrating.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

not for me.

their annoying ads at youtube have moved me away.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

Sounds like the Windows Phone saga. A large company going head to head with established players, making no great dent in the market and bleeding cash. Consider what the financial position of Rakuten would have been if it had not decided to do this.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Unlimited Rakuten Mobile has always given me an excellent speed even during peak times, when my UQ WiMax pocket wifi couldnt load a Youtube video in 144p.

Rakuten was the only company to offer me a credit card real quickly when I was still a student and even train companies and my own bank refused me their cards.

I've been spending at least ¥500,000 every month using Rakuten Card and because of the points I never had to pay for fast food, gas etc. ever again

7 ( +15 / -8 )

I think people are worried about the amount of effort it takes to switch. I remember when I first came to Japan and I went to Docomo to get my phone, not only did it take hours, but they preinstalled apps that require a subscription and needed for me to come in on a separate day to have them take the subscription off. Not only were the prices outrageous, but at the time I only had 2GB of data. Everything can be done online in minutes with Rakuten with e-sim.

I used Y-mobile after that, it was okay. But then I tried Rakuten mobile due to the amount of money I could potentially save which was needed during the pandemic. In terms of coverage, yeah it isn't the best but really nothing to complain about since you barely pay for anything. I mostly live and commute in areas with coverage and travel to inaka during weekends and it has been fine for the most part. The fact that you have the ability to use unlimited data is fantastic, and if you are usually home and on wifi, your plan is automatically cheaper that month. Those who don't have wifi at all need not to worry with unlimited data.

They definitely did a crummy job at marketing with their ads. I feel like Japan is one of those unique markets. We still have Yakult ladies, insurance companies knocking door to door, eigyou-man travelling 1000s of Kms just to greet their client, etc. Perhaps Rakuten needed to first build a client base by going door to door instead of relying on their E-commerce clientele.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Rakuten, one of the worst companies on planet earth

Couldnt agree more. Do business with them at your own risk.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

Rakuten network connects at Ino kochi, at the Airport my home, landing at Nagoya Tuesday , Aichi prefecture, its a dead zone.

I am thinking if it could be my contract.

Calling customer service, I could hold a conversation with Elvis before achieving any sense of what is going on.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Used them before but switched earlier this year because of the patchy coverage. At least here in Aichi it was really uneven unless you were in Nagoya.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

For a few years, I have been using POVO. Very good, cheap prices.

-12 ( +2 / -14 )

I am using their unlimited plan which at JPY 2800 per month is great value for me apparently not for them!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

POVO works everywhere without any problems.

-15 ( +1 / -16 )

As a case study of business strategy, this one is quite interesting. Rakuten tried to go from being an MVNO to an MNO, i.e., someone who rents bandwidth on someone else's network to someone who builds physical towers and physical base stations and creates their own network. As examples of famous companies, AU is an MNO, they have communication infrastructure, and UQ are an MVNO, a reseller of bandwidth on AU's network. Those two companies are actually part of the same group.

When Docomo, AU, and Softbank originally set up, all of them had a slow rollout and all had coverage issues across inaka. Back then, mobiles were new and folk did not expect them to work absolutely everywhere like today. The idea with Rakuten becoming an MNO was that they would still operate as a MVNO in areas without their own masts, i.e., their new coverage would be backed up by whatever bandwidth they were buying from (I think it was) Softbank. This must not be happening very well if folks are having connection issues.

The disadvantage for users on an MVNO is that they are not given priority compared to MNO customers when the network is crowded. The classic experience is slow speeds at busy periods, such as lunchtime in the city. AU customers are likely to have faster speeds at lunchtime than UQ customers.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Rakuten network was/is a huge go to.

2019, I think I signed up, just before the covid stuff

Hiccups here and there but in Ino it was noticeable good value for money.

Also the pandemic ment Nagoya was a no no.

This is my first trip back to the team, I have had to use softback account.

It is disappointing, if Rakuten folds, prices will rise.

Why didn't Rakuten have a clear business strategy?

Large towns and cities, customer strongholds to turbo charge the brand?

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

POVO starts from zero yen.

-12 ( +2 / -14 )

I've been spending at least ¥500,000 every month using Rakuten Card and because of the points I never had to pay for fast food, gas etc. ever again

¥500,000 only gets you 5000 Rakuten points. So you expect us to believe you spend less than ¥5000 on food, gas etc. per month? Stop lying.

-7 ( +6 / -13 )

CEO Hiroshi "Mickey" Mikitani, moniker

The "Mickey" bit, has all the overtures of a spiv second-hand car dealer, "Mickey Motors"....

Where you buy a car and before you reach the first set of lights, the back wheels overtake front, singing "Rhinestone Cowboy".

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Interestingly that no one mentioned a scandal where all Rakuten employees were supposed to sign up friends and family members to Rakuten Mobile. Basically engineers working at Rakuten HQ got a memo that whatever they were doing there was secondary, signing up new people to Rakuten Mobile was their primary task.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Rakuten Mobile sim is great. Never had coverage problems even in the countrysides and mountains. Problem is Japanese will never change carriers or numbers. I know Japanese people I met 18 years ago as a student and they still use the exact same number and carrier today.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Your mobile number stays with you when you change carriers.

-12 ( +2 / -14 )

¥500,000 only gets you 5000 Rakuten points.

Tell me you never shop online without telling you never shop online.

They give you x3~10 times more in points depending on the occasion, especially when you shop in their website. Stop bs.

7 ( +14 / -7 )

You keep the same number with Mobile Number Portability (MNP).

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

You can use Rakuten when you go overseas. Up to 2GB is free.

Also if you use less than 1GB domestically it is free.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Your mobile number stays with you when you change carriers.

Phone numbers are SIM dependent. Carriers require there own SIM

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

*their

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

I use Rakuten because of the price. The only coverage problems I have are in supermarkets. Don’t know why but I never get service in the two close to where I live. No problems when hiking in the mountains though

1 ( +2 / -1 )

When we changed from DOCOMO to AU we kept the same mobile numbers.

https://www.docomo.ne.jp/english/support/procedure/mnp_subscribe/#:~:text=If%20you%20are%20considering%20switching,with%20another%20carrier%20with%20DOCOMO.&text=How%20to%20Get%20MNP%20Reservation,ahamo%20(in%20Japanese%20only).

Items to prepare for MNP (Mobile phone Number Portability)

https://www.au.com/english/support/mnp/

https://www.softbank.jp/en/mobile/shop/buy/mnp/

0 ( +3 / -3 )

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