Disney Japan to offer mobile service

Company teams with Softbank on venture

Walt Disney Co. Japan plans to offer mobile services in Japan, starting next spring, in partnership with Softbank Mobile Corp., the mobile communications unit of the Softbank media and telecommunications group.

According to the deal announced on Sunday with Softbank, Disney will lease telecom networks from Softbank Mobile and use them to operate its Disney Mobile service, a first for a foreign company in Japan. The company will also work with Softbank to develop Disney character handsets and mobile content.

 Customers will be able to buy the handsets and sign up for the Disney Mobile network service, which features downloads of Disney toons, at the 2,464 Softbank Mobile stores nationwide.

Disney’s mobile content services, which are developed inhouse specifically for Japan, claim 3.5 million registered users. “As a result of our success in mobile content in Japan, we believe there is a strong market for a more immersive Disney mobile experience that includes a phone and suite of services and content,” said Disney Japan prexy Paul Candland in a statement.

Disney decided not to go it alone in the Japanese mobile service market because of the high startup costs — about ¥1 trillion ($8.9 billion) for a nationwide network of base stations. Softbank Mobile, on the other hand, has been in the mobile communications biz since 1994 and has grown its customer base to 17.2 million.

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