iphone-5sJapanese carrier NTT DoCoMo sustained a record loss of 66,800 subscribers for the month of September, with the drop attributed to a lack of stock of the new iPhone 5s, reports Reuters. Rival Japanese carriers Softbank and KDDI saw gains of 270,700 and 232,700 subscribers respectively, according to Bloomberg, with all three carriers offering the iPhone 5s free on contract through special promotions.

DoCoMo attributed the subscriber loss to customers who delayed purchases until after Apple’s new mobiles went on sale Sept. 20 and insufficient stock of those handsets, said Atsuko Suzuki, a company spokeswoman. Rival carriers’ marketing strategies also hurt sales, she said.

Notably, the avaliability of the new iPhone 5s and lower-cost iPhone 5c through DoCoMo marks the first time that Apple's mobile phones have been offered on the carrier, coming after a July report pointed to a loss of 3.2 million users over the last four and a half years as the carrier did not have a deal with Apple to offer the iPhone. However, a report in early September indicated that the carrier would finally offer the iPhone following comments from DoCoMo CEO Kazuto Tsubouchi citing “compelling reasons” to reach a deal.

Avaliability of the iPhone 5s has remained extremely tight throughout the world since its release last month, with Apple relaunching an in-store pickup option for U.S. online orders just last week. The company also continues to quote "October" shipping estimates for online orders in countries where the iPhone 5s has launched, suggesting that Apple is still experiencing some uncertainty about how quickly it will be able to meet demand.

Top Rated Comments

Ballis Avatar
102 months ago
Thats hardly Japan-specific. Existing custumers are treated like dirt everywhere.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
mavis Avatar
102 months ago
I'm sure it has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that here in Japan, new customers are given preferential treatment in terms of both pricing and handset availability. :rolleyes:

Of course they're losing more customers than the competition - they have a larger subscriber base to bleed! If carriers here would treat existing customers better, there probably wouldn't be so much churn.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
BC2009 Avatar
102 months ago
DoCoMo's mistake was waiting this long to offer the iPhone. They insisted that they would not release a smartphone without their own apps pre-installed. Apple told them where to stick it until they came back and agreed to Apple's terms. But now it was probably too little too late for iPhone 5s production. New carriers to iPhone always get less stock than existing carriers (look at Sprint and T-Mobile in the USA compared to AT&T and Verizon).

In Japan, being the first with a new tech gadget is a huge status symbol because the Japanese are largely a culture of tech enthusiasts. If NTT DoCoMo is out of stock, but Softbank or KDDI have a store across the street and they have stock then why wouldn't somebody switch?

The iPhone is not going boost NTT DoCoMo's sales because their competitors already have it. Getting the iPhone on NTT DoCoMo is going to be about slowing and reversing the losses of subscribers in the long term. Just imagine how big those subscriber losses would have been without the iPhone on DoCoMo.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
unplugme71 Avatar
102 months ago
Thats hardly Japan-specific. Existing custumers are treated like dirt everywhere.

Yup, oh you been a customer with AT&T for 10+ years. You now have to pay $36 to upgrade instead of the original $18.

Oh, you are a new customer to AT&T. We'll waive the activation fee for you!
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
the8thark Avatar
102 months ago
Thats hardly Japan-specific. Existing custumers are treated like dirt everywhere.
I think this is the answer. it's almost better to choose a new carrier each time you get a new iPhone. To have the new user bonus always.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
windowpain Avatar
102 months ago
The mountains and dense cities in Japan complicate it.
Would not surprise me if they have as many cell nodes as third of USA.

I was interested about this, and had a quick check.
According to this link (http://www.statisticbrain.com/cell-phone-tower-statistics/) the US has 190,000 cell phone towers.

According to this link (http://www.thenewecologist.com/2011/07/solar-power-for-tower-cells/) (in 2011) Docomo alone had 90,000.

I would guess that Softbank has around 70,000 and KDDI has about 60,000 (purely a guess on these numbers..I couldn't find any info.)

The US is obviously far bigger geographically (and about 3 times the population), but the vast majority of Japanese live within 3 hours of a mountain. The close proximity of the buildings too (relative to the US) probably necessitate a denser cell tower network.

Almost every part of Japan (particularly on Honshu) is covered by cell phone reception.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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