NTT DoCoMo 3G subscriptions hit five million

The total number of subscribers to NTT DoCoMo Inc.’s third-generation (3G) cellular telephone service hit five million on Monday, the carrier said on Tuesday.

NTT DoCoMo required just under two months to add another 1 million subscribers for the service. The Japanese company said this million-subscriber increase came faster than the jump from 3 million to 4 million customers due partly to a new range of handsets that were launched over the past two months.

During the same period, the carrier also extended network coverage to 99.7 per cent of populated areas, including all subway stations in Tokyo. A new fixed-fee service, which allows unlimited access to wireless Internet sites, was also launched on June 1. The carrier plans soon to launch handsets that include smart cards for use as e-money and transport passes and, later this year, its first dual-mode handsets that will roam on foreign Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) networks.

Subscriptions to the 3G service, which is based on Wideband Code Division Multiple Access (WCDMA) and branded Foma, still make up a small portion of NTT DoCoMo’s total subscriber base. At the end of June, the carrier had 46.4 million subscribers of which 41.8 million were on its second-generation network, according to figures from the Telecommunications Carriers Association (TCA).

By the end of fiscal year 2006, which runs until the end of March 2007, the carrier hopes to have a total of 50 million subscribers of whom it hopes half will be on the 3G network, it said in June.

NTT DoCoMo’s two major competitors in Japan also operate 3G networks. The Au service offered by KDDI Corp. had 14.7 million subscribers out of a total of 17.6 million on a CDMA2000 1x-based 3G network, while Vodafone Japan had 200,000 subscribers out of a total of 15.1 million, on its WCDMA-based network at the end of June, according to the TCA.

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