Japan's DoCoMo loses mobile market dominance

After a decade as the dominant provider, NTT DoCoMo can no longer say it provides mobile service to most of the Japanese market. March metrics show that smaller rivals are grabbing market share in a fierce fight ahead of the start of the academic and business year, a Reuters report said.

DoCoMo held a 49.7% share of Japan's total mobile phone and Personal Handyphone market at the end of March, down from 50.2% in February, the Telecommunications Carriers Association said. DoCoMo acknowledged that it was the first time in about a decade that its market share had fallen below half, the Reuters report said.

Shinji Moriyuki, a senior analyst at Mitsubishi UFJ Securities commented, 'As user needs become varied, it's hard for any one carrier to hold on to a majority of market share. Softbank is winning in this changing market because it has a retailer's eye for pricing, design and services, while the others are still thinking like telecom firms.'

March is a big month for mobile phones, with carriers fighting to sign up students and new corporate recruits ahead of April, the start of the academic and financial year in Japan.

The race for new signings was won this year byJapan's third largest carrier Softbank, just ahead of second-largest carrier KDDI, the report said. Despite a marketing blitz to try to keep pace with its price-cutting rivals, DoCoMo signed on 173,700 net new users in March, only around a third of Softbank's 543,900 new subscribers or KDDI's 500,500 users.