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Cell phone service in Japan isn’t exactly cheap, and if you spend a lot of time on your smartphone talking with clients, chatting with friends, or otherwise keeping in touch with the rest of the world, it’s not hard to run up a monthly bill in the neighborhood of 10,000 yen (US$84). Thankfully, Japanese providers offer a variety of discounts to help soften the blow, with reduced rates for family members being a huge help.

Now, as part of the changing societal concept of what constitutes a family, Japan’s largest telecommunications provider has begun offering family discounts to same-sex couples who present documentation of their union.

Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward has been leading a push in the capital for greater acceptance of gay marriage, and from November 5 will begin issuing Partnership Certificates for same-sex couples. It remains to be seen exactly how closely the rights and benefits conveyed by these Partnership Certificates will align with those provided to married couples, but telecommunications provider NTT DoCoMo has announced that it will accept the same-sex union documents as proof that the couple is a family, at least as far as cell phone service goes. As such, couples that present their Partnership Certificate will be eligible for the same discounts as heterosexual married couples: 25 percent off their base plan price, free texting to one another, a 30-percent discount on phone calls to their partner, and a 10-percent discount on calls from their cell phone to their home phone.

This isn’t a radical change in DoCoMo’s attitude. For some time the company has extended such discounts to same-sex couples who can verify they are living together by having the same address listed on their driver’s licenses or other official documents. However, the family discount benefits will be provided for same-sex couples with a Partnership Certificate even if they are not living at the same address.

DoCoMo isn’t the only company adopting such an inclusive stance, either. Both KDDI, which runs the au mobile phone network, and SoftBank have previously offered discounts to cohabitating same-sex couples. KDDI has announced that it will also be honoring the Partnership Agreements as proving eligibility for family discounts. SoftBank is yet to make an official decision regarding the matter, but from a business standpoint alone, it’s hard to imagine the company not following suit in order to stay competitive with its two major rivals.

Sources: Yahoo! News Japan/Jiji Tsushin via Hachima Kiko, NTT DoCoMo
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