Rakuten Mobile chairman Mickey Mikitani highlighted an improved financial position in the final quarter of 2022, as roaming costs continued to decline and its network rollout entered the final stage.

On an earnings call, Mikitani noted network construction and roaming costs will be reduced significantly by the end of 2023, which puts the company on the right path to establish a profit structure.

More than 95 per cent of data traffic was carried on its own network in Q4 2022, compared with 83 per cent in the comparable quarter of 2021. It aims to eliminate domestic roaming by end-2023, saving JPY180 billion ($1.4 billion) annually, he said.

Its operating loss fell to JPY112.6 billion from JPY118.7 billion in Q4 2021. Revenue increased 75.2 per cent to JPY114.4 billion, due in part to ARPU increasing with the transition to new pricing plans.

Capex this year is forecast to remain high at JPY300 billion, up from JPY296 billion in 2022. The outlay is expected to drop to JPY150 billion in 2024.

Mikitani said it ended 2022 with 98 per cent population coverage and plans to add 8,000 base stations early this year to take the count to 60,000 sites.

5G push in 2023
With the allocation of spectrum in the 800MHz to 900MHz band, he said it will accelerate its 5G rollout in 2024 by making use of existing assets, specifically 4G sites and software-driven equipment.

The chairman noted the so-called platinum band offers wider coverage and will be a big step to filling coverage gaps.

Average data consumption per user jumped to 18.4GB from 9.5GB in Q4 2021, credited to the launch of unlimited plans in July 2022.

Revenue from software platform Rakuten Symphony grew to $231 million from $61 million in Q4 2021.

CEO Tareq Amin said the unit closed 14 global contracts and is working on eight more, adding it aims for 40 per cent revenue growth in 2023.

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