Japan’s leading mobile operator by subscribers, NTT DOCOMO, has announced plans to extend the footprint of its ultra-high speed LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) service, branded ‘Premium 4G LTE’, by rolling out thousands of additional LTE-A base stations by the end of March 2016. The carrier launched the Premium 4G LTE service in March 2014 and so far has coverage of 825 cities via 13,500 base stations, offering peak download speeds of up to 225Mbps. DOCOMO is combining spectrum in the 700MHz, 800MHz, 1500MHz, 1700MHz and 2100MHz bands to support the service. In addition, the cellco says it is able to offer peak 300Mbps data speeds in 535 Japanese cities and is looking to switch on a 370Mbps service in the near future, utilising spectrum in the 3.5GHz band. In total, the operator had 126,000 LTE-enabled base stations on its network at end-2015, with a further 4,000 slated to come online by the end of the group’s current fiscal year (i.e. 31 March 2016). More than 36.29 million of its total 69.60 million customers were signed up to LTE by the start of this year, up 28.3% year-on-year. DOCOMO reported too that the total number of smartphones sold during the nine-month period ended 31 December 2015 reached 10.98 million units ‘thanks to the brisk sales of iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus’ handsets, launched in September 2015. Total handsets sold reached 18.52 million, up 8.7%, and tablet sales also increased, to 1.60 million units from 1.17 million units in the year-earlier period.
For the first three quarters of fiscal 2015 DOCOMO booked operating revenue of JPY3.38 trillion (USD27.93 billion), up 1.7% from JPY3.33 trillion for the same period in the previous financial year, as operating income rose 16.8% to JPY685.51 billion and net profit soared 29.0% to JPY492.45 billion from JPY381.85 billion previously. DOCOMO’s capital expenditures for the nine months ending 31 December 2015 totalled JPY362.50 billion, down 17.5% y-o-y, as it focused on implementing what it termed a ‘more efficient use of capital expenditures’ and further cost reductions in the nine-month period.
Separately, NTT DOCOMO has also announced plans to launch a sizeable share buyback programme, in which it intends to purchase up to JPY500 billion-worth – or 220 million – of its own shares, between February and December this year. The telco currently has four billion shares outstanding.