It looks like the Japanese government is going to compel the country’s mobile carriers to make a major change, one that is possibly going to be welcomed by natives and tourists alike. A new report claims that the country’s Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry has plans to make mobile carriers remove SIM locks from their phones so that they can be used with any other mobile carrier. This plan is expected to be placed before a panel today with the details being mapped out by the end of this fiscal year.
“Informed sources” tell Japan Times that while the ministry had set guidelines for removing SIM locks back in 2010 little work has been done by carriers since this wasn’t obligatory. Apparently the lack of response from carriers has compelled the ministry to make a drastic change in this policy and make it obligatory for carriers to remove SIM locks from the devices they sell.
In Japan carriers heavily subsidize some of the most popular smartphones to bring in new subscribers, however these phones are SIM locked. They can’t be used on any other carrier so customers find themselves stuck with one carrier. Those who have limited internet use on mobile find these monthly rate plans, used to finance the discounts, to be very expensive.
Making it obligatory to remove SIM lock would give customers choice of their favorite devices as well as the carrier of their own choice. Moreover it would also promote the use of mobile virtual network operators or MVNOs. These operators don’t set up their own infrastructure and piggyback on a major carrier’s network, but provide relatively cheaper prepaid services which particularly appeal to tourists.