Line is about to try life as a mobile operator, but it’s already making a big mistake

Line is about to try life as a mobile operator, but it’s already making a big mistake
Credit: Line

You probably know Line as a messaging app that’s wildly popular in Asia. It also handles things like paying your bills, booking tickets and hailing cabs. Now, it also wants to be a mobile operator.

The company announced today its intent to launch Line Mobile in Japan. It won’t exactly be a full-fledged carrier — it will piggyback on telecom giant NTT DoCoMo’s nationwide cellular network and offer features to help bring users closer to its own apps and services.

For starters, you’ll be able to use Line, Facebook and Twitter for free — that includes browsing posts and making calls — with no limit on how much data you consume.

The company says it will also let people stream music and other content without incurring data charges, though it hasn’t specified which services will qualify for this offer.

You’ll also earn points for paying your phone bill, which can be converted into money you can spend with the Line Pay service, as well as the newly launched Pay Card.

Line says it will launch its mobile service this summer, with plans starting at JPY 500 ($4.50) a month.

It’s interesting to see Line’s strategy for expansion across Japan. The company seems keen to tackle every sort of digital transaction you can imagine and draw people ever deeper into its app ecosystem.

However, it appears to be doing so at the risk of violating net neutrality principles — offering only certain services for free while charging for others on its network goes against the idea that all Web traffic should be treated the same.

Facebook’s Free Basics initiative, which sought to offer access to sites on its platform at no charge, landed the social network in trouble in India and forced it to shut down the service across the country earlier this year.

Line Announces Plans to Introduce MVNO on Line

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