Japan’s dominant cellco NTT DoCoMo has said that it expects its FOMA 3G customer base to multiply by more than 18 times to total 25 million by 2006. ‘We expect our total users to be around 50 million in 2006 and half of them will be 3G users,’ chief executive Keiji Tachikawa told a news conference yesterday. The cellco revealed it is planning to boost growth with the rollout of a new series of W-CDMA handsets for its FOMA service, designed to rival the compact design and longer battery life of its 2G phones. It is also looking into running its handsets on either the Linux or Symbian operating systems to make them more attractive to developers; most Japanese 3G handset vendors are currently at odds with much of the world by using the homegrown TRON operating system. DoCoMo launched the world’s first 3G service in October 2001 but limited coverage and an unimpressive range of handsets have seen it fall behind its rival KDDI, whose au subsidiary has more than ten million 3G customers.
At the end of October 2003 NTT DoCoMo had 43.9 million subscribers to its nationwide PDC cellular service, a fall of 200,000 over three months. In contrast, subscription to its FOMA W-CDMA third-generation service rose by 550,000 to 1.34 million, whilst the number of PDC customers also taking the company’s i-mode wireless internet service grew by over 600,000 to 40 million. NTT DoCoMo claims that more than a quarter of its subscribers now own camera phones, helping to push monthly average revenue per subscriber (ARPU) to JPY2,020 in the three months to the end of September 2003, a rise of 18% over the year-earlier period. Last month DoCoMo raised its annual revenue forecast to JPY5.03 trillion from its previous estimate of JPY4.9 trillion.