After KDDI failure, SoftBank backs inter-carrier roaming

SoftBank Corp boss Junichi Miyakawa has backed a government proposal to introduce inter-carrier roaming in the wake of the disastrous KDDI crash a month ago.

KDDI's network went down for 61 hours, denying connectivity to 30.9 million people. This prompted Communications Minister Yasushi Kaneko to promise an inquiry into the need for industry-wide roaming during emergencies.

The outage took out essential services including banking, weather transmission and network-connected vehicles (see KDDI network goes down for two days after maintenance failure).

SoftBank's Junichi Miyakawa said the operator was 'not treating this as someone else's problem.'
 (Source: SOPA Images Limited/Alamy Stock Photo)
SoftBank's Junichi Miyakawa said the operator was "not treating this as someone else's problem."
(Source: SOPA Images Limited/Alamy Stock Photo)

The telco has said it will pay compensation of 200 yen to every customer affected, leading to a total bill of 7.31 billion yen (US$54.8 million).

Kaneko handed down a rare administrative order to KDDI Thursday, demanding that the company do more to prevent future network disruptions.

He said the operator "should make the utmost efforts to avoid a recurrence with the full awareness that it plays a crucial role in supporting essential societal infrastructure," Asahi Shimbun reported.

Taking responsibility

Speaking at a quarterly results briefing, Miyakawa said the operator was "not treating this as someone else's problem."

It had established an internal committee to study the possible impacts of a SoftBank network crash, he said.

"It should not happen at SoftBank," he said, but the human error that caused the KDDI outage indicated that future incidents "might happen."

"Smartphones are a must for our daily lives," Miyakawa said.

"Just enabling calls to police and fire during emergencies is not sufficient. Therefore some functions like roaming have to be seriously considered."

He said he had not yet had any discussions with other operators, but it was essential to have industry-wide support to avoid congestion.

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The company reported a 15% fall in earnings to 128.5 billion yen ($962.6 million) for the quarter, with revenue flat at 1.36 trillion yen ($10.2 billion).

Consumer business revenue was off by 4%, a result of continued price discounting and lower handset sales.

However, the company enjoyed its strongest quarter in subscriber additions, adding 340,000 customers, many of them migrating from Rakuten after it terminated its 'zero yen' pricing plan.

Rakuten has been driving prices down since it entered the market in early 2021. But Miyakawa said the financial impact of the price-cutting appeared to have peaked and would fall in the second half of the year.

Of the estimated 90 billion yen ($676 million) impact for the 2022-23 financial year, 25 billion yen ($187 million) took place in Q1, he said.

SoftBank Corp stock closed 0.46% lower at 1501.50 yen ($11.28) on the Tokyo exchange Thursday.

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— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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