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Users of Softbank's low-cost phones may call mobiles.

TOKYO, Nov. 2 Kyodo

The Softbank Corp. group will link its largest low-cost Internet protocol (IP) telephony service in Japan, called BB Phone, with those of four major mobile phone operators in Japan, with the aim of starting the mutual link in January, industry sources said.

The four are NTT DoCoMo Inc., KDDI Corp., Vodafone K.K. and the Tuka group. Currently, a BB Phone user can call mobile phones using a regular landline phone hooked to a dedicated modem, but only via a foreign telecommunications carrier, which raises phone charges.

Under the planned arrangement, the foreign carrier is expected to be bypassed, a step allowing Softbank to cut charges from BB Phone services to mobile phones.

BB Phone's call charges to mobile phones currently run 25 yen per minute between 8 a.m. and 11 p.m. and 20 yen per minute at other hours. This compares with calls to a landline phone, which run 7.5 yen per minute to anywhere in Japan.

Softbank will also offer its phone service users IP phone numbers that begin with 050, which would allow mobile phone users to reach them.

The link between IP phones and mobiles was established Saturday by KDDI and is scheduled to begin Wednesday by NTT Communications Corp.

But the entry of BB Phone, the biggest service provider, into the market will have a far reaching impact as it will allow its approximately 3 million users to access around 78 million mobile phone users in Japan as of the end of September.
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Publication:NTT Topics
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Nov 3, 2003
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