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Docomo's 7 Million LTE Subscribers Give it an Edge in Japan's Carrier Wars

Docomo Samsung Galaxy S III Launch, Tokyo

New mobile subscriber figures from Japan’s Telecom Carriers Association show that the country’s leading carrier, NTT Docomo (NYSE:DCM - News), dropped 40,800 customers in November, sliding from 60.79 million in October to 60.75 million. At first glance, it would seem that rival carriers Softbank and Au performed comparatively well in November, and indeed over the last few months – thanks in large part to the fact that both carry Apple’s iPhone 5, which launched back in September – they have done ok.

In the chart below, you can see the amount of subscribers that each carrier has added per month over the past year. But it’s important to keep in mind that most of Docomo’s new subscribers over the past year have been on its shiny new LTE service, which is reported separately by the TCA. And if you factor those into the equation, then Docomo has been doing great (even without the iPhone), adding 678,000 subscribers for the month of November [1]. The chart shows Docomo’s aggregate subscriber additions in red (without LTE shown in pink), alongside the aggregate numbers reported for Softbank and Au by the TCA.

docomo subscribers

according to TCA figures

Docomo’s LTE service surpassed the seven million subscriber mark in November (7,394,200 to be exact), which gives it pretty strong growth since its Xi service originally became available back in late 2010.

Softbank and KDDI just recently began selling the cellular model of the iPad Mini on November 30, so it’ll be interesting to see how that affects subscriptions for December.

  1. It’s my understanding that the figures reported by the TCA for Softbank and Au include their LTE subscriptions. But for Docomo, these are separated. It’s an unusual presentation, which could lead to misunderstandings (reports from VentureBeat and Reuters are misleading) if Docomo’s LTE additions were not taken into account.  ↩