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 Monday, 09 June 2008

OKYO -(Dow Jones)- Softbank's mobile phone unit claimed the top spot in terms of net subscriber growth in May, pulling in more than double the number of net contracts garnered by bigger rivals NTT DoCoMo and KDDI.

Third-ranked Softbank, which this week announced a deal to sell Apple's popular iPhone, may be starting to significantly reduce the gap between it and second-ranked KDDI in Japan's intensely competitive mobile carrier market.

Data released Friday on new subscription contracts signed by Japan's three major cell phone carriers showed that Softbank Mobile gained a net 173,700 subscribers to its mobile phone service during the just-ended month, by far outpacing the net 72,400 that KDDI gained and the 60,900 subscribers that NTT DoCoMo pulled in.

In April, Softbank Mobile also won the battle for subscribers by a significant margin, picking up a net 192,900 contacts compared with a net 96,000 gain for DoCoMo and a 118,700 net fall in subscribers for KDDI, due to the termination of its so-called Tu-Ka service.

At the end of May, Softbank had about 18.95 million subscribers, while KDDI had about 30.29 million contracts.

However, both companies still have a long way to go to catch up with market leader DoCoMo, which reported 53.54 million users at the end of May.

The race to attract new subscribers is likely to heat up over the coming months, with all three companies rolling out new products and strategies to compete in Japan's saturated mobile service market.

Earlier this week, Softbank said it would begin selling the iPhone brand in Japan by the end of the year, scoring a blow against DoCoMo, which until that point had been expected to be the first to report a deal with the U.S. firm.

Not to be outdone by Softbank's aggressive marketing campaign, which features household names Brad Pitt and Cameron Diaz using the company's products, DoCoMo late last month launched 19 handsets for its 906i and 706i series in an attempt to widen the array of phones it offers.

Source: Cellular News.