WASHINGTON — American broadband is slow and expensive. But Masayoshi Son wants to help.
Mr. Son, the founder of, the Japanese technology and telecommunications giant, took an unusual tack in a rare address to an American audience on Tuesday, saying that he wants to rescue the United States from broadband oblivion.
What he really wants, of course, is to merge, which he took control of last year in a $21.6 billion deal, with . But American regulators have told him that the prospects are not good for joining the third- and fourth-largest mobile phone companies.
In a speech at the United States Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Son said that wireline and wireless broadband service for two-thirds of American consumers was currently a monopoly or duopoly. “Pseudo-competition,” he said, “is not the solution.”
The address was a remarkable combination of patriotic appeal — a slide show regularly featured a backdrop of the American flag — a biographical sketch of his hardscrabble upbringing in a working-class family, and recognition of his achievements at the University of California, Berkeley, and as a businessman in Japan.
With a fortune estimated by Forbes at $18.4 billion, he is the richest person in Japan and 42nd wealthiest in the world. Before the dot-com bubble popped in 2000, he noted, “I was richer than Bill Gates for three days.”
Mr. Son said he believed it was unacceptable for the United States to rank 15th out of 16 large economies in the world for wireless broadband speed but to have the second-most-expensive cost to consumers.
“It’s not the case that American consumers pay more because Americans use more data” than wireless customers in the rest of the world, Mr. Son said, rejecting a standard argument used by wireless companies.
Japanese consumers use an average of 1.5 gigabytes of data a month, while Americans use 1 gigabyte, he said. But, he added, Americans also pay $52 per gigabyte on average, versus $30 in Japan.
In a television interview on Monday with Charlie Rose, Mr. Son said if he were successful with his bid to acquire T-Mobile, he would start a “massive price war” among wireless companies.
But after his formal remarks on Tuesday, Mr. Son told reporters that he could not start such a price war on his own, at least with Sprint at its current size.
“We have the spectrum; we have the technology,” Mr. Son said. “But we need scale efficiency to make an investment in the network.” Sprint currently has a negative cash flow, he said. “We can start a small fight but it does not scale, it does not last, it’s not sustainable,” he said. “We need to have a real fight — a long and deep and heavy fight. And for that we need scale.”
SoftBank also announced Tuesday that it was opening a Washington office to be run by Bruce Gottlieb, who formerly served as chief counsel at the Federal Communications Commission and who, most recently, served as general counsel and senior vice president for corporate strategy at Atlantic Media.
Ronald Fisher, president of SoftBank Holdings, said: “Last year, we made the largest ever foreign investment by a Japanese company in the United States and we expect Bruce will play a key role in helping us manage the investments we have made in the U.S. mobile Internet industry.”