iPhone 5S' poor availability hurting Japan's biggest carrier

The scarcity of Apple's new high-end handset is wreaking havoc on NTT DoCoMo as subscribers flee.

NTT DoCoMo is off to a rough start with  iPhone sales.
NTT DoCoMo is off to a rough start with iPhone sales. NTT DoCoMo

Can't get your hands of the iPhone 5S? Neither can Japan's largest carrier, which is suffering mightily as a result.

NTT DoCoMo lost a net total of 66,800 subscribers in September, the worst loss ever, according to a report in Japan's Nikkei on Monday.

And DoCoMo lost 133,100 subscribers based on the mobile number portability (MNP) system, the report said.

DoCoMo blamed its subscriber-based problems on the double whammy of customers, who were waiting for the new iPhone, putting off purchases, and the subsequent scarcity of the 5S after it was announced, according to the report.

The iPhone has been reshaping Japan's telecommunications market -- one of the largest in the world -- as it gains in popularity. DoCoMo's problem is that it was late to the Apple phone game: the 5S and 5C are its first phone products from Apple.

Softbank, which began carrying the iPhone in 2008, has seen its market share expand on the back of Apple's phone. KDDI (au) picked up the iPhone in 2011.

SoftBank and KDDI gained a net total of 270,700 and 232,700 subscribers, respectively, in September.

Both are offering discount programs for the iPhone 5 to incentivize upgrades to the 5S.

Things aren't much better stateside, either. There has been only sporadic availability of the 5S at Apple stores and carriers like Verizon Wireless.

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

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