updated 11:15 pm EDT, Wed September 21, 2011
KDDI to become second Japanese iPhone carrier
KDDI will soon end SoftBank's lock as the only Japanese iPhone carrier, sources claimed late Wednesday. The new provider would open up to sales of the iPhone 5 under its Au service sometime early 2012, the Nikkei said. It could theoretically start earlier, but it would need more time to prepare.
Its data plan would cost somewhere near 4,000 yen, or about $52, coming within distance of SoftBank's rate.
Neither Apple nor KDDI has confirmed or denied the deal.
Japan is one of the few major countries where just one carrier has the iPhone to sell. Going through third-largest carrier SoftBank has been enough to make the iPhone the top-selling smartphone in the country and even push Apple near the top of total cellphone makers, but the iPhone's absence on second-place KDDI or leader NTT DoCoMo has cost it a position. Android collectively outsells the iPhone both through deals with outside smartphone producers like Samsung as well as local competitors like Sharp and Toshiba learning to take the category seriously.
KDDI normally uses CDMA and wouldn't have had an option for the iPhone until this year at the earliest. Apple may have been reluctant to simply use the iPhone 4 as both DoCoMo and SoftBank use GSM and would have made it harder for a subscriber to switch. The iPhone 5 could be dual-mode and make it easier to hop from provider to provider as well as simplify Apple's production.