KDDI Makes Big Gains in January
By Eric Lin, Mon Feb 09 23:15:00 GMT 2004

NTT DoCoMo is still the largest mobile operator in Japan by far, but new numbers released last week show that KDDI is adding more new subscribers. Last month they added four times more than either DoCoMo or Vodafone. They are also the only one of the three to offer an unlimited 3G data plan. Coincidence? We don't think so either.

Nikkei BP and the Japan Times summarizes January's monthly report from the Japanese Telecommunications Carriers Association in English today. 360k new subscribers were added last month, finally pushing Japan over 80 million mobile subscribers, or just about 63% of the population.

NTT DoCoMo may have added a million FOMA subscribers in the past four months, but new numbers released today show that most of those subscribers must have converted i-Mode users. Last month they added 63.7k subscribers and even assuming January was a slump, it would have taken more than four months for them to add 1 million new subscribers. Despite making the smallest gains of the three major carriers, DoCoMo still maintain a huge lead in total subscribers tripling the other two carriers with over 45 million users.

Vodafone KK slightly outpaced DoCoMo in gains, adding 64.1k people, but they still remain in third place with 14.8 million subscribers. Vodafone KK don't launch the hotly awaited V801SH until April. Until then, they don't have much to compete with NTT DoCoMo or KDDI.

KDDI was the big gainer for January. While they only total just 1.4 million more users than Vodafone, they quadrupled the gains of Vodafone or DoCoMo adding 232k subscribers in one month. KDDI recently launched a 1x EV-DO high speed data network in Japan, along with a new JPY 4,200 per month all you can eat plan. KDDI is the first major Japanese carrier to launch a flat rate unlimited data plan. They are also the only ones in Japan to launch 1x EV-DO, which has doubled W-CDMA speeds in many real world tests. Launching a fast data network with an affordable unlimited plan is bound to appeal to the country's notoriously heavy data users.

When KDDI launched their AU service, NTT DoCoMo said they too would consider an all you can eat price plan. If KDDI continues to outpace DoCoMo in gains, it shouldn't be long before we hear an announcement about their decision to add an unlimited plan as well.