Japan’s largest mobile operator by subscribers NTT DOCOMO is setting aside around JPY636 billion (USD5.3 billion) in its financial year ending 31 March 2016 (FY2015) to enhance service coverage and access speed on its 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) network, and to improve operating efficiency. The sum comes on top of the JPY661.8 billion spent in the year to 31 March 2015, a period in which the operator added over 42,000 4G base transceiver stations (BTS) to its 4G network, taking the total to 97,400 – with more than 50% (57,700) supporting speeds of at least 100Mbps. However, DOCOMO is now looking to augment its services with LTE-Advanced (LTE-A), and recently launched ‘Premium 4G’ offering a peak 225Mbps connection, with the aim of boosting this to 300Mbps in the medium term. Further, the carrier is looking to use the soon-to-be-deployed 3.5GHz band in Japan (i.e. in fiscal 2016) to offer an even faster 370Mbps service, says Kaoru Kato, the group’s president and chief executive officer. ‘We are aiming for [the] introduction of 5G by around 2020. Therefore, we will promote further faster speeds [in the interim], and aim to offer the fastest network speeds anywhere in Japan,’ Kato added.
NTT DOCOMO recently reported that net income for the full year ended 31 March 2015 dropped 12% year-on-year to JPY410.1 billion as the impact of new, heavily discounted pricing plans designed to attract new subscribers weighed heavily on earnings. The operator reported that total operating revenue fell 1.7% to JPY4.38 trillion and operating profit slumped 22% to JPY639.1 billion from JPY819.2 billion a year earlier, well below its target figure of operating income of JPY750 million for the year. Operating expenses rose 2.8% to JPY3.74 trillion as a result of rising costs of equipment, it said, amongst other factors. DOCOMO closed out March 2015 with more than 66.6 million mobile subscribers, of which 30 million were 4G subscribers; it targets 37 million LTE subscribers by the end of fiscal 2015.