KDDI President Makoto Takahash speaks in a photo taken Jan. 31, 2019. Credit: KDDI

SEOUL, South Korea — SpaceX’s Starlink satellite broadband service will be available in Japan’s remote areas starting in 2022.

Japan’s major mobile provider, KDDI, announced Sept. 13 a partnership with SpaceX to “offer an urban mobile connectivity experience to its rural mobile customers” via its 1,200 remote mobile towers. The pair will start by offering Starlink broadband to customers living in mountainous regions and islands for no additional charge, said the Tokyo-based teleco. The satellite network will also serve as backup in case terrestrial telecom lines are disrupted during natural disasters or blackouts, it added.

The two organizations have conducted a series of technical demonstrations after receiving an experimental license from Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, according to KDDI. They are working to win a formal license by the end of the year. The Japanese firm didn’t disclose the financial terms of the agreement.

Japan still has a few areas with incomplete telecom networks — at the end of March, about 9,900 people lived in locations with no mobile coverage and even in areas with wireless coverage, it is often hard to connect with devices on islands, according to Nikkei Asia.

KDDI covers over 90 percent of the population with 4G communication, but a so-called platinum frequency band only extends over 60% of the land area, Nikkei reported.

Meanwhile, KDDI’s rival Softbank partnered with OneWeb in May to develop “advanced seamless connectivity” in Japan and other markets.

Park Si-soo covers space industries in South Korea, Japan and other Asian countries. Park worked at The Korea Times — South Korea's leading English language newspaper — from 2007 to 2020. He earned a master’s degree in science journalism from Korea...