In July we were one of the first to report on NTT Docomo being in tough negotiations with Apple to carry the iPhone. They were apparently struggling to agree on sales goals. However, Docomo was losing customers to rival carriers due to the iPhone's success in Japan and a deal was pressing. Apple announced that Docomo was on board during the September launch of the iPhone 5S. Then news surfaced early on that Docomo was unhappy about the lack of iPhones to sell and their inability to regain their lost subscribers. Well, with a little time, that's apparently all turned around. A new report this morning describes that the iPhone is finally providing NTT Docomo with the boost in subscribers that they were hoping for.
According to Bloomberg, Japan's largest carrier added more subscribers than rivals for the first time since December 2011, gaining 279,100 net users last month for 62.2 million total customers. That compares with 222,600 more for KDDI and 224,300 additional users for SoftBank, the companies reported yesterday.
It's a sign Docomo can compete against carriers that have been swiping its customers since they started carrying Apple's smartphones. Docomo started selling the iPhone 5s and 5c when they were released in September, ending a holdout that saw smaller competitors win market share and lure customers with Apple's handsets.
Satoru Kikuchi, an analyst at SMBC Nikko Securities Inc. in Tokyo stated yesterday that "From now, the ranking of the companies will be switching because Docomo offers the iPhone. The iPhone strengthens Docomo's foundation."
Docomo had resisted the iPhone to focus on handsets from Sony Corp. and Samsung and to protect its online store called "dmarket" from competition with iTunes. SoftBank was the first of Japan's operators to offer the iPhone when it began sales in 2008 before KDDI followed in 2011.
Docomo's change of fortune is a preview of what may happen for China Mobile Ltd. this year after the world's largest carrier announced it will begin offering the iPhone as it rolls out its new fourth-generation network. Like Docomo, China Mobile is its country's last major carrier to offer the Apple device.