Japan’s largest mobile operator NTT DoCoMo pipped out third-ranked Softbank Mobile from its perch as the market’s fastest growing operator in February.
And the Japanese behemoth is expected to hold onto the position in March as well, and possibly longer.
The story starts with the latest net addition figures, which reveal that DoCoMo took on 148,300 net adds in February compared with 145,800 adds for Softbank Mobile.
This marked the end of a seventh month winning net adds streak for Softbank Mobile.
The last time DoCoMo led Japan’s net adds race was in June 2009. That victory however was short-lived, as Softbank Mobile trumped net adds the following month.
So, will this time be any different for DoCoMo?
Possibly. This time round DoCoMo has found success with its latest 3G handsets, unveiled in November, that come packed with new or updated features, including personalized services such as auto GPS, upgraded i-concier services and expanded data security services.
Several of the new devices began selling in February, with a couple of handsets coming on line this month.
Secondly, Softbank Mobile’s customer growth was always expected to be down in February, given the operator will switch off its 2G service by end-March.
Softbank Mobile’s 2G churn is also likely to adversely affect its March net adds, again working in DoCoMo’s favor.
Meanwhile, part of DoCoMo’s February growth story comes from lower tariffs, including discounted student plans as well as cheaper unlimited mobile email plans.
The good news for DoCoMo is that Softbank Mobile has already retaliated with more aggressive student plans than its own.
By the same token, KDDI is already also offering unlimited mobile email plans.
Popular new handsets, Softbank Mobile’s 2G network closure coupled with aggressive sales of PC/mini-notebook bundled plans are likely to see DoCoMo remain in the no. 1 spot in March at least.