Tuesday, October 08, 2013

NTT DoCoMo sees record subscriber loss despite its first access to the iPhone,

Some folks just can't wait to get their hands on the latest gizmo, and that is illustrated in black-and-white (or red ink) by NTT DoCoMo which, reporting through TechCrunch, revealed Monday that it experienced a substantial loss in subscribers in September, despite finally receiving access to the iPhone.

In fact, despite gaining access to the iPhone for the first time, NTT DoCoMo blamed the best-selling device for its woes.

DoCoMo, which is Japan's largest carrier, said its subscriber base dropped 66,800 in September. It blamed the drop on the fact that it only had limited supplies of the iPhone 5s and 5c on hand. Meanwhile, rivals KDDI and Softbank, both of which had earlier access to the iconic iPhone, saw net subscriber adds in September, some of whom we can only assume defected from DoCoMo (Softbank added 270,700 and KDDI 232,700).

So why was the iPhone in short supply at DoCoMo? It's the iPhone; the carrier should have ordered as many devices as it could have. Perhaps it did not. Or perhaps it received short shrift in terms of supplies because first Softbank and then KDDI became Apple partners ahead of it.

Despite this, DoCoMo is still the dominant carrier in Japan, with 46 percent market share (but vs. 52 percent in 2008).

U.S. carrier history should point to an eventual DoCoMo subscriber recovery. It took a significant amount of time before those who defected to AT&T -- specifically for the iPhone -- considered returning to alternatives such as Verizon Wireless (the nation's largest), Sprint (no. 3) and T-Mobile (no. 4).

Of course, the key point here is that the iPhone is a device that customers are willing to jump ship over. The long delay to get the iPhone was at least partly DoCoMo's making: It had focused on handsets from Sony and Samsung and tried to protect its online store, dmarket, from competition with Apple’s iTunes.

DoCoMo had a total of 61.8 million subscribers last month, followed by KDDI with 39 million and SoftBank with 34 million.

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