Softbank dumps Vodafone brand

Ian Rowley

Among the numerous missteps made by Vodafone in Japan after its acquisition of J-Phone in 2001 was the undue haste with which it installed the global Vodafone brand. Most Japanese had never heard of the British company, while J-Phone's image had been on the rise. Having snapped up Vodafone's Japan business in a $15.5 billion deal in March, Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son is now wasting little time doing the same thing. Still, given Softbank's high profile the move is certain to go down a far better. At a news conference to in Tokyo today, Softbank announced that by October Vodafone Japan, Japan's third biggest mobile carrier, will be renamed Softbank Mobile and the brand will become Softbank. Plans are already underway to give the 1,856 Vodafone shops in Japan the Softbank treatment. Given that number portability will come to Japan in November, enabling customers to move carriers and keep their old numbers, that's good timing. Still, righting some of Vodafone's other errors may take a little longer. One oft-cited criticism of Vodafone was that it halved 3G investment after acquiring the J-Phone biz at a time when rivals KDDI and NTT were spending big. Now, Softbank says it plans to more than double the number of base stations for its 3G services to 46,000 from the current 20,000 be next April. A rumored alliance with Apple to make Softbank iPod phones also suggests that a revitalized Softbank Mobile could yet close the gap on NTT and KDDI.

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