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Rakuten's mobile ambitions could shake up Japanese market

E-tailer's entrance may ignite price wars with entrenched rivals like SoftBank

Rakuten's mobile business operates on borrowed network equipment. The online shopping company aims to launch a new, self-sufficient cellular service unit next year.

TOKYO -- E-commerce leader Rakuten's bid to become a mobile network operator raises the possibility of reinvigorating Japan's stagnant market as the company becomes the first new entrant in over a decade.

Rakuten will apply to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications for an allotment of newly opening frequencies on the 4G mobile network, the company said Thursday. NTT DocomoKDDI and SoftBank Group have built a three-way hegemony in Japan, and price competition has suffered. A fourth major mobile player could disrupt that dominance.

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