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DoCoMo looks to boost data subs as profit plummets

Leading Japanese operator NTT DoCoMo today unveiled a new strategic initiative geared at driving uptake of its FOMA WCDMA services and cutting the dead weight of its loss making PHS division. The operator also announced a deal with Philippines operator PLDT, which will further the expansion of its i-mode service on a global basis.

From March 1 DoCoMo will increase its number of flat rate unlimited data access FOMA plans to encompass all new FOMA billing plans introduced since November 2005 onwards. The typical flat monthly rate will now stand at Y4,095 (US$34).

DoCoMo today reported 20.13 million FOMA 3G subscribers as of end-December, up from 11.5 million at end-March 2005, while the operator’s 2G mova user base dropped from 37.3 million at end-March to 30.2 million at year-end as subscribers continued to migrate to the FOMA service. The loss making PHS business, which had 882,000 customers as of end-December reported an operating loss of Y3.1 billion, against operating revenues of Y33.2 billion. DoCoMo today said it would terminate the PHS service during the October to December period of 2007, after it ceased accepting subscriptions in April 2005.

DoCoMo will encourage PHS subscribers to switch to its 3G FOMA offering, the company said.

Earnings for the nine month period to end-December 2005 were hit by competitive pressures, with net income plummeting 31.7% year on year to Y516.4 billion, while operating revenue dropped 1.7% year on year to Y3.58 trillion for the nine month period.

New price plans appeared to stem the decline in ARPU, which for aggregated FOMA and mova stood at Y5,110 for voice, Y1,860 for data and Y6,970 on a blended basis at end-December. Meanwhile churn dropped to 0.72% in the three months to end-December.

The operator also focused on driving expansion of its i-mode service, today announcing a plan to acquire 7% of shares in PLDT owned by DoCoMo parent NTT Communications, in a deal worth Y52.1 billion. Under the agreement, PLDT’s wholly owned mobile subsidiary, SMART Communications will introduce i-mode services.

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