Japan’s largest cellular service provider, NTT Docomo, has just revealed its first monthly decline in subscribers in over five years. The cause? None other than Apple’s popular iPhone 5, which is offered by rivals KDDI and Softbank, Japan’s second and third-largest carriers, respectively. As Docomo is the only one of the three that doesn’t have the iPhone, customers know where they need to go when they want Apple’s smartphone.
Docomo revealed today that the month of November saw a drop of 40,800 subscribers, the first decline since August of 2007. KDDI and Softbank, on the other, have both posted increases in their subscriber numbers for the same month. As the iPhone 5 was the best-selling mobile phone in November, this puts additional pressure on Docomo, which has previously stated it has no intentions of offering the Apple device, instead relying on smartphones running Google’s Android operating system. The reason for shunning the iPhone is most likely because Docomo wants to push its own media marketplaces, which it can install on Android devices, instead of just providing another outlet for Apple to sell its own content through iTunes and its App Store.
But further adding to Docomo’s woes is that the carrier already reduced its full-year profit estimates and new subscriber numbers back in October. Can Docomo continue to afford not offering the iPhone, as well as iPads with cellular data connections, which KDDI and Softbank also carry, when it’s more than clear that’s what customers want?
KDDI posted a net increase of 228,800 customers in November, while Softbank added even more, with 301,900. Some analysts believe it is now inevitable for Docomo to adopt the iPhone. But while a spokeswoman for the carrier admits Apple‘s devices are very popular and could be an attractive part of their lineup, there have been no decisions made about its handset offerings for the next year and beyond. If Docomo wants to stay number one, they better make up their mind quickly.[via Businessweek]