TOKYO -- Amid the expanding COVID-19 crisis, three Japanese mobile network operators including NTT Docomo are planning to offer discounts on data communications fees for students aged 25 or lower.
The move is in response to a request from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications to mitigate extra charges for students taking online classes. The ministry is expected to make the request on Friday, and Docomo, KDDI and SoftBank are expected to announce measures the same day.
Most data plans in Japan set a cap on data usage and slow the communications speed after usage exceeds the upper limit. During April, the three mobile operators will scrap charges for adding data capacity. Users generally need to pay about 1,000 yen ($9.2) per gigabyte per month, but they will be able to use up to 50 gigabytes of data for free under the new measures.
In order to prevent new coronavirus infections, some universities have decided to switch to online lessons from April. College students need a stable internet environment to take online classes at home, but many students do not have Wi-Fi at home due to the cost. Some public facilities offer free Wi-Fi, but the risk of spreading coronavirus may increase if such places become crowded.
Some telecommunications companies may also remove monthly fees for tethering -- connecting laptops and other devices to the Internet using a smartphone connection.
The companies plan to extend the charge-free period depending on the situation at schools. Some will also provide additional discounts. KDDI has decided to discount monthly charges for unlimited data plans.