Rakuten Mobile registered a wider loss in Q3 as an aggressive network build nears completion, with the operator counting on its low cost structure and move to the 700MHz band in 2024 to drive subscriber adoption.

On an earnings call, CEO Tareq Amin said profitability will improve with all subscribers shifting off free plans to paid and costs to drop dramatically after network capex peaks at the end of the year.

“The major build of our network is done,” he said, noting base station construction and opex will fall significantly.

Rakuten Mobile targets adding 10,000 in the current quarter to bring the total to 60,000 sites, providing 99 per cent population coverage.

Amin insisted Rakuten Mobile is not satisfied to remain the fourth-ranked player in Japan, saying it is “on the way to becoming number one” with a focus on lowering costs through automation.

The optimism stems from a link found between wide network coverage and customer acquisition, with more new users joining in areas where Rakuten Mobile has 100 per cent reach.

Amin said its bottom-line will also benefit from a reduction in roaming costs, noting 95 per cent of traffic runs on its own infrastructure.

Rakuten Mobile will launch services on the 700MHz band in March 2024 using existing base stations and fibre backhaul.

It ended Q3 with 6,440 5G base stations nationwide.

Net loss rose to JPY120.9 billion ($860 million) from JPY105.2 billion in Q3 2021, with revenue up 62.5 per cent to JPY89.3 billion.

ARPU increased to JPY2,588 with the transition to new pricing plans, Amin said. The figure includes an undefined ecosystem contribution.

Data usage rose 35 per cent.

Its overall subscriber base increased 13.7 per cent to 5.8 million.

Rakuten Symphony had bookings from 14 customers valued at $3.1 billion.

In response to reports it cut staff, Amin explained the company needs fewer employees as the network rollout comes to a close, with many shifted to other departments.

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