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Mobile giants push video content ahead of 5G rollout

The Yomiuri Shimbun

NTT Docomo Inc. President Kazuhiro Yoshizawa, left, and others announce the start of the “Disney Deluxe” video streaming service.

The Yomiuri Shimbun Japan’s mobile communications giants are bolstering their video streaming services as the industry gears up for the 2020 full-fledged rollout of 5G, the super-fast, next-generation mobile network.

NTT Docomo Inc. President Kazuhiro Yoshizawa has said that “video streaming will become a main service” after the 5G network is established. However, the rapid expansion in streaming services will swell the nation’s communication traffic, and there are concerns that adjustments to the existing communications infrastructure might not be completed in time.

NTT Docomo and the Japanese arm of U.S. entertainment company Walt Disney Co. announced Thursday they had formed a tie-up under which the “Disney Deluxe” video streaming service will become available for a fixed monthly fee of ¥700 (plus tax) from March 26. Subscribers will be able to watch movies from brands under the Disney umbrella, including Disney, Pixar and Marvel. They can watch these movies as often as they like.

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  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

Members of NTT Docomo’s customer loyalty program and other services will also be able to access Disney Deluxe even if they do not have a contract for an NTT Docomo mobile phone. The company apparently intends to corral a wide range of customers into its services that can only be used by members.

The 5G network scheduled to come fully into operation in 2020 offers transmission speeds 100 times faster than the current 4G standard. It will enable huge volumes of data to be sent in an instant.

In preparation for this development, NTT Docomo in 2015 launched its dTV service, which allows users unlimited viewing of movies and other content. Since 2017, NTT Docomo has offered its DAZN sport streaming service at a discounted price.

Other communications companies are quickly boosting their video streaming services to keep up with NTT Docomo.

In August 2018, KDDI Corp., which operates the au mobile phone service, started a cheaper pricing plan for a package deal that included mobile phone charges and a monthly fee for the Netflix video streaming service.

Since September 2018, SoftBank Group Corp. has offered billing plans in which communication fees are not charged for several video streaming services including TVer and Hulu.

According to the Digital Content Association of Japan, the nation’s video streaming market in 2017 reached about ¥185 billion, an increase of about 10 percent from the previous year. As a growing number of people, especially among younger generations, watch videos on smartphones, this market is forecast to grow further.

Expansion of video streaming services will require telecommunication infrastructure such as base stations. It is possible the costs of providing this infrastructure could become an operational burden for each company.

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