Softbank Floats Plan for Japan-Wide Fiber Network

$6.2B venture to replace phone lines

TOKYO -- Softbank Corp. has floated a plan to build fiber-optic cables throughout Japan to replace existing phone lines in a 500 billion yen ($6.2 billion) joint venture.

The plan calls for the involvement of the government and Softbank's two bigger rivals Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. and KDDI Corp., CEO Masayoshi Son said Friday.

Son said he submitted the proposal dubbed the "new broadband super highway" to the government this week for consideration.

He said the alternative to a fibre-optic network is wireless telecommunications but technical hurdles make the hardwired network more viable and cheaper.

Japan has 40 million conventional phone lines, which would take five years to be entirely replaced with fiber optics, Son said.

As a latecomer to Japan's telecommunications business, Son also aims to be on "equal footing" with formerly state-run NTT, which is 40%-owned by the Finance Ministry and has virtually controlled the fixed-line phone line business for decades.

Softbank, which is the only Japanese mobile carrier offering the iPhone, Thursday reported a 9% increase in first-half profit.

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