Mon, Apr 09, 2007 - Page 12 News List

Japan's KDDI seeks to expand brand into US market

AFP AND BLOOMBERG , TOKYO

KDDI Corp will become the first Japanese mobile carrier to start its brand in the US market by renting a network from a US company, reports said yesterday.

Japan's second-largest mobile provider will offer the service under the name "KDDI Mobile" by renting a wireless communications network from Sprint Nextel, Kyodo News said, quoting KDDI officials.

KDDI plans to target Japanese customers in the US by offering Japanese-language data input, as well as display and ring melodies familiar to them, it said.

The service could be running as early as June, the Asahi Shimbun said.

Japan's largest mobile phone service provider NTT DoCoMo Inc has also been expanding overseas, mostly by licensing agreements for its popular "i-mode" Internet-capable mobile phone service.

NTT DoCoMo has also made capital investments in European and US telecom firms, but has scrapped most of them after losses.

KDDI's overseas expansion comes amid growing competition at home since October, when Japan began allowing mobile subscribers to switch carriers without changing their numbers. Last month KDDI added a record 530,000 users, beating NTT DoCoMo for a fifth month due to the mobile number portability rule which made it easier for customers to switch carriers.

KDDI had 28.2 million subscribers at the end of last month, the company said on Friday. DoCoMo gained 298,000 subscribers in the month for a total of 52.6 million, or 54 percent of the market, it said in a separate statement. Softbank Corp, owner of Japan's third-largest operator, added 127,600 users.

DoCoMo, which posted its first monthly loss of users last November, has surrendered market share to KDDI in the past eight months.

KDDI's additions last month were the most since the company started operations in 2000 through the merger of DDI Corp, KDD Corp and IDO Corp, spokesman Haruhiko Maede said on Friday.

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