* Govt aims to boost competition in mobile market
* Govt wants to realise charges in line with other nations,
internal affairs minister says
* PM Suga has made carrier fee cuts a policy priority
TOKYO, Oct 27 (Reuters) - Japan on Tuesday laid out a plan
for reducing consumers' cellphone charges, as the government
stepped up its bid to promote competition in the country's
Lowering cellphone charges has been among Prime Minister
Yoshihide Suga's policy priorities since becoming the country's
leader last month, as he shakes up a highly protected industry.
The internal affairs ministry called on carriers to offer
easy-to-understand fee plans and services in a proposal for
promoting competition in the telecoms market, such as by making
it easier to switch providers and lowering the costs associated
with doing so.
The ministry called for stepping up efforts to sell unlocked
SIM cards this autumn, as well as coming up with a policy by
next summer for giving consumers the option to switch carriers
online without replacing their SIM cards.
Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Ryota Takeda
said he wanted to reduce fees to nothing for carrying over a
cellphone number when switching providers, which usually costs
about 3,000 yen ($29).
"We hope to quickly realise cellphone charges that are in
line with other major nations," Takeda told reporters at a news
The plan aims to push the country's mobile network providers
to be more competitive, with the three biggest ones being NTT
Docomo Inc, KDDI Corp and SoftBank Corp
"If companies are strongly put under pressure by the
government, they can't help it but to move towards lowering
fees," said Takumi Tsunoda, senior economist at Shinkin Central
Bank Research Institute.
"While it will lead to inflation pressures, I don't think
actual fee cuts will be large enough that consumers will feel
they're really benefiting from it."
Suga instructed Takeda in September to consider how to cut
charges, after calling that month for a roughly 40% reduction of
such fees from current levels.
Takeda said the government should seek to create an
environment in the telecoms market that was favourable for
consumers, while declining to give a specific target or timeline
for cutting charges.
($1 = 104.7100 yen)
(Reporting by Daniel Leussink; Editing by Chris Gallagher,
Gerry Doyle and Sherry Jacob-Phillips)