Vodafone KK Shows Net Loss of Subs in July
By Eric Lin, Fri Aug 06 23:00:00 GMT 2004

For the second month in a row, DoCoMo led KDDI in new subscribers by a narrow margin. More significantly, Vodafone KK had a negative month, actually losing 3100 more subscribers than it could add.

Vodafone KK lost 3100 subscribers out of about 15.1 million. The number three carrier was able to add 19,400 new 3G subscribers, but the vast majority of those were upgrades to current Vodafone 2G users. At least this reversed Vodafone's trend of being the only carrier to add fewer 3G users than new subscribers. However it actually added 10,000 fewer 3G subscriber in July than it did in June. Vodafone's 3G numbers also lag the other carriers' significantly, barely registering against the other carriers' average of 560,000 new 3G subs. The totals look bad too, but really aren't quite as bad. Vodafone does not even have one quarter of a million 3G users, where DoCoMo has over 5 million and KDDI over 15 million (but that includes 1xRTT).

Last month Kazuyo Katsume, an analyst at JP Morgan Securities Asia, was impressed with Vodafone's newly launched handsets, this month he says they weren't impressive enough to compete with models introduced by KDDI and DoCoMo. Noting that Vodafone doesn't have any more handset launches planned until December, Katsume says "The only thing Vodafone can do is improve service quality."

KDDI closed the gap slightly on DoCoMo's lead in new subscribers. KDDI gained a total of 219,700 subscribers to DoCoMo's 225,700. KDDI added about twice that many 3G users (431,200) and DoCoMo almost 3 times their net gain (688,500). Both carriers then brought down those high 3G numbers by losing 2G customers. They are quite successful with efforts to migrate users to 3G as well as adding new subscribers.

While DoCoMo launched FeliCa in July, no 3G handsets were available with the chip until August. The convenience of FeliCa alone was not enough to attract additional 2G subscribers, it will be interesting to see if the number one carrier's 3G numbers make a significant jump in August, especially since the 3G FeliCa handset is a version of the popular Sony Ericsson SO900i. It will also be interesting to see what steps (if any) Vodafone announces to attract subscribers in the coming weeks and months.