Japan’s leading mobile operator by subscribers, NTT DoCoMo, signed up a net 7,000 new mobile users in January, less than 5% of the additions at rivals KDDI and Softbank Mobile, to end the month with 52.2 million users, roughly 55% of the market. KDDI’s ‘au’ brand added a net 432,000 users, while its less popular TU-KA brand lost a net 223,600 customers, giving the group a combined net gain of 208,400 – equal to 29% of the market. Softbank Mobile, which has upped the anti with the introduction of a new low-cost monthly package, added 164,000 new users in the month, lifting its total to 15.7 million. Softbank, controlled by Japanese entrepreneur Masayoshi Son, has promised to turn up the heat on the market by undercutting competitors’ monthly fees, while KDDI has said it may increase CAPEX on its mobile network to a seven-year high to handle a projected increase in subscribers. It could raise investment to as much as JPY500 billion (USD4.2 billion) in the year to 31 March 2008, compared with its JPY450 billion projection for the current fiscal year.
In a separate story, the Financial Times writes that Tadao Saito, chairman of the telecommunications ministry’s newly formed mobile business study group, is considering plans to remove SIM locking, in a bid to further increase competition in the mobile market. Mr Saito is the man who has been given the task of boosting the international competitiveness of the country’s mobile sector. One measure he believes could achieve this is by amending the law to end the practice of SIM locking. Some argue that consumers are losing out because mobile network operators can use SIM locking to tie customers down to using a single handset.