TOKYO -- Top Japanese mobile carrier NTT Docomo will offer customers a free year of Amazon Prime as telecom and tech companies form alliances ahead of next spring's rollout of ultrafast 5G wireless service.
Starting Dec. 1, Docomo will cover the roughly $45 annual cost of Amazon Prime membership for subscribers to new rate plans launched in June, giving them access to the service's catalog of thousands of movies and dramas. The tie-up was announced Tuesday.
"We anticipate an inflow [of customers] from other companies," Docomo President Kazuhiro Yoshizawa told a news conference here.
The vastly increased data speeds and capacity of 5G networks compared with 4G are expected to make entertainment a bigger battleground for wireless carriers.
Docomo already gives subscribers access to Disney streaming videos, as well as sports content from DAZN, a U.K.-based service. Rival KDDI launched in September a new unlimited-data plan that includes a subscription to Netflix.
Japan's video-streaming market is expected to grow roughly 30% between 2018 and 2023 to 295 billion yen ($2.7 billion), according to the Digital Content Association of Japan.
Docomo's Amazon Prime deal will be available to nearly 10 million users. If just 10% take the offer, the carrier will need to pay roughly 5 billion yen. But "as a price for retaining and bringing in subscribers, it's cheap," a Docomo executive said.