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LEAD: Softbank gives up starting mobile phone service as new comer+
[April 28, 2006]

LEAD: Softbank gives up starting mobile phone service as new comer+

(Japan Economic Newswire Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)TOKYO, April 28_(Kyodo) _ (EDS: RECASTING WITH NEW INFO)

Softbank Corp. told the government Friday that the Internet conglomerate will return a license it acquired to enter the mobile phone operation business, a widely expected move that followed its acquisition of British mobile operator Vodafone Group Plc's Japan business.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications gave Softbank the license last November to launch cellphone services this year. Softbank said it has adopted the more cost-effective measure of using the infrastructure set up by Vodafone K.K., Vodafone Plc.'s Japan arm, rather than starting business from scratch.

Also Friday, Vodafone K.K. appointed Softbank President Masayoshi Son as its new president at an extraordinary shareholders meeting.

Vodafone shareholders also approved six Softbank executives, including Son, as board directors of the company.

Among Softbank officials joining the Vodafone board, Director Ken Miyauchi is already acting as senior executive vice president at the mobile phone carrier.

Six senior Vodafone officials including Chairman Shiro Tsuda exited management while Bill Morrow, who stepped down as Vodafone president, continues to serve as director.

Softbank recently completed its purchase of a 99.5 percent stake in Vodafone K.K.

Transferring its management to the Softbank group, also including Yahoo Japan Corp., Vodafone intends to devise more competitive services and price scales in an effort to catch up with NTT DoCoMo Inc. and KDDI Corp.

Son met Heizo Takenaka, the communications minister, at the ministry building to inform him that he was returning the business license.

Son, who has said he will abandon the "Vodafone" brand name, told reporters that the executive board will finalize a new name when it meets next month.

He said the company will start selling models under the new brand in this fall, eyeing the start in November of the "portability service" that will allow subscribers to switch mobile phone operators without changing their phone numbers.

The Softbank group aims to strengthen Vodafone's online contents using Yahoo's know-how, while Son has expressed willingness to increase the number of ground stations to ensure clearer communications.

In November, the government gave a cellphone business license to three companies, including eAccess Ltd. and IP Mobile Inc., in the first such move since 1994.

The two firms are to start operating mobile phone services at the 1.7-gigaherz bandwidth this fall or thereafter.

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