Rakuten Launches Prepaid SIM card, Smartphone App for Tourists

Rakuten Launches Prepaid SIM card, Smartphone App for Tourists

Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten Communications has launched a tourism and information smartphone service, J-TripGateway. This mobile advertising service is designed to provide internet access to foreign tourists in Japan. The service combines a prepaid SIM card with a sightseeing information smartphone app which allows visitors to Japan to earn mobile data by viewing advertising content on their smartphones before and during their stay in Japan.

The service is initially aimed at Taiwanese tourists, though Rakuten is also considering expanding it across Asia, Europe and the Americas. On 22 January the J-TripGateway SIM cards became available online on in Taiwan, and at a later date they will be available through Rakuten Taiwan Ichiba and other e-commerce enterprises and travel agencies in Taiwan.

Advertising content partners include Taiwanese tourist booking service KKday Tours, as well as Rakuten services Voyagin and Rakuten Ticket, and tour and sightseeing information provided by travel companies in Japan. J-TripGateway is available for a recommended price of JPY 1,000 (US $9.02) for the basic version and JPY 1,800 (US $16.24) for a version with higher allowances.

Tarifica’s Take

Rakuten, an e-commerce and internet giant sometimes called “the Amazon of Japan,” has been offering MVNO services for several years now, over the network of NTT DoCoMo. This latest offering, aimed at Taiwanese tourists, is interesting because of the way in which it is built around mobile advertising. This kind of advertising, while certainly effective in many cases, has the potential to alienate users because it can be perceived as annoying at best and invasive of privacy at worst. But J-TripGateway gets around these problems by targeting an audience that will likely not share these objections.

For one thing, tourists in Japan will probably welcome ads that inform them of opportunities relating to their travels, especially considering that the ads are paired with sightseeing information. Furthermore, as the SIM is intended for short-term use, buyers can be expected to be more tolerant of the ads than long-term mobile subscribers would be. And finally, of course, linking bonus data to ad viewing increases the appeal for any user. On the whole, we feel this is a clever use of a mobile advertising platform in a tailored, special-purpose short-term MVNO offering.