Tokyo – Japan’s Rakuten Inc said on Friday the launch of its 5G services planned for June has been delayed by three months due to disruption caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
Software testing by Rakuten’s Indian vendors has been impacted by a lockdown in place there since March 25, a spokeswoman said.
The delay is the latest setback for Rakuten, which was forced to push back the start of commercial services for its mobile network to April.
Rakuten is trying to carve out a share of a market currently dominated by three competitors, and drive traffic to its ecommerce and financial services.
On Thursday, the firm reported growing operating losses at its mobile business. Chief Executive Hiroshi Mikitani has said the network cut costs by using cloud-based software instead of proprietary hardware.
The carrier launched with aggressively low priced plans. But it has fewer base stations than its competitors and numbers trailing incumbents, and Rakuten is paying KDDI Corp for roaming services.
Rakuten has not disclosed how many user numbers it has garnered during the first few weeks since the launch, increasing uncertainty over its performance as the coronavirus halts economic activity across Japan.
Against the backdrop of questions whether Japan is testing sufficiently, Rakuten Inc has started selling testing kits for companies and organizations.
The kit, developed by Genesis Healthcare, an affiliate of the e-commerce giant, will be priced at 14,900 yen ($138) for those who do not meet the specific symptoms in Tokyo and four neighboring prefectures, the company said.
Japan still faces a shortage of masks, even though the government has started distributing two masks free to each household.
It has also drafted prisoners to make masks, with the justice ministry saying about 100 prisoners in seven facilities have turned them out since March, following orders from private firms, with monthly output capacity of 66,000.
By Sam Nussey