Japan's KDDI feels a "sense of crisis" over its low 5G takeup as a result of the coronavirus, a company executive says.
Executive Vice President Takashi Shoji told an earnings briefing Friday that after a sharp slump during the first pandemic wave in April and May, the business had experienced signs of recovery in June and July.
But he admitted it was difficult to predict how the market, and in particular 5G, would unfold in the coming quarters.
"We have a huge sense of crisis here about au 5G," he said, referring to KDDI's prime mobile brand. "We are trying to think of various factors ... as of today I cannot clearly say our plan."
In its first full quarter since it began commercial 5G service, KDDI didn't disclose subscriber numbers on the new network.
The au service added 600,000 mostly 4G customers in the quarter to take the total to 59.24 million. Its secondary brand, UQ, added 219,000 customers to reach 34.7 million.
The number-two Japan mobile operator has been aggressive in its 5G pricing, with unlimited data plans from as low as 3,460 yen (US$33) and a limited offer of two years of 5G at 4G price.
Launching the service in March, KDDI President Makoto Takahashi described the pricing as "audacious," saying the company aimed to win more than 2 million subscribers by the end of financial year next March.
Aside from 5G, the pandemic helped deliver a boost to earnings and ARPU.
It reported a 12% increase in profit to 182.3 billion yen on flat revenue of 1,242 billion yen for the three months to June 30.
The retail shutdown allowed it to slash handset promotion expenses, while the work-from-home surge caused a spike in energy consumption and fresh demand for KDDI's low-price retail electricity service.
The higher volume of non-telco services such as payment and retail also propelled ARPU 4.6% higher to 7,790 yen.
KDDI stressed that its network rollout had not been delayed. It says it's on course to meet its targets of 10,000 basestations deployed by March 2021 and 50,000 by March 2023.
— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading