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Japanese government plans to remove SIM locks for phones

Subscribers in Japan are currently locked into a mobile carrier at expensive monthly rates when buying a subsidised phone. A new government initiative will remove the SIM locks on phones to allow for freedom of choice.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications is housed at the Central Government Building in Tokyo.Wiiii/Wikipedia Commons

The Japanese Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry has plans to remove the SIM locks for mobile phones that are currently in place which prevent customers from using another SIM card on their devices.

This is based on a report from Jiji Press, in which sources that say that the ministry will present the plan at a panel on Monday with details to follow by the end of the current fiscal year.

The report further states that the ministry is currently dissatisfied with the existing guidelines, which allow for a non-obligatory removal of the locks, but have little effect. A "drastic review" of the guidelines has been planned.

Japan uses a subscription model, where subscribers can purchase heavily discounted phones and tablets with a contract tie in. Depending on the plan, the subsidy is recovered through a higher monthly plan, and operators lock the customer in by ensuring that the handsets are SIM locked, preventing them from switching carriers.

This can be quite a hassle for Japanese tourists, as they will be unable to purchase a local SIM card for access to cheaper calls and data, forced to use expensive roaming services.

According to the Jiji Press report, the removal of the SIM lock is expected to lower telecommunication fees through the use of mobile virtual network operators. These companies use leased networks instead of setting up their own towers and data centers, which can result in cost savings for consumers.