The Telecom Carriers Association has released the official Japan mobile subscriber stats for November (current figures updated on our left navigation bar), with several stunning results. While not surprising – after the first full month of number portability – KDDI posted an impressive gain with a net +325,000 customers. In contrast, this might well be the first time that market leader NTT DoCoMo has ever announced a net client loss: -17,500. Perhaps even more shocking was the fact that their prized i-mode service also shed 56,200 subscribers! The SoftBank Mobile customer count – which is ‘confusing’ – indicated a net gain of +68,700 contracts, however they somehow managed to lose 3,600 subscribers to the company’s Yahoo! mobile web portal.. hmm? Finally, we saw the total number of 3G subscribers in Japan cross the 60M mark as the migration continued, showing gains of well over 1 mn upgrades per month.
Full details here.
We also noted some interesting comments from Kieran Calder via Bloomberg today:
KDDI Corp., Japan’s second-biggest mobile-phone carrier, added subscribers in November, the first full month in which wireless users were allowed to switch operators without changing their number. The company had a net increase of 325,000 users in November, the most since March, it said in an e-mailed press release today. Bigger rival NTT DoCoMo Inc. lost a net 17,500 subscribers in the month, the company said in a faxed release.
KDDI is attracting customers in Japan’s $75 billion wireless phone market by offering handsets that play music and radio and has a system for organizing and downloading songs on a personal computer. The surge in new subscribers may narrow the company’s profit margin as it absorbs costs for subsidizing new handsets.
Net subscriber gains by KDDI versus rivals means it “will also have to pay the most in handset commissions and suffer the worst margin damage,” Kieran Calder, a senior analyst at CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets in Tokyo. He has a “sell” rating on KDDI and DoCoMo shares. “Having more subscribers will eventually benefit KDDI, but for now, it’s negative because of handset costs.”
KDDI pays about 37,000 yen in commissions per handset, Calder said, citing figures from the company. Number portability will affect KDDI’s rivals as well, pushing down their profit margins in coming quarters as the movement of subscribers raises handset subsidy costs, Calder said.