NTT DoCoMo expects 6M subscribers by 2004

NTT DoCoMo Inc. expects its 3G (third-generation) wireless mobile service to pull in 150,000 customers by the end of this year and 6 million within 3 years, delivering a profit by 2005, company president and CEO Keiji Tachikawa said Friday at the 10th International World Wide Web Conference (WWW10) in Hong Kong.

The WCDMA (Wideband Code-Division Multiple Access) service will be kicked off May 30 for 4,000 customers in the metropolitan area containing Tokyo, Yokohama and Kawasaki, with those customers paying no service subscription fee, only a per-bit fee for the data they download, Tachikawa said. It will be rolled out to a 30-kilometer radius from central Tokyo in October and within three years will be available to 97 percent of Japan's population.

Despite gloomy predictions on the prospects for 3G by some analysts, fueled in part by a delay in DoCoMo's planned rollout of full commercial 3G service from May to October, DoCoMo is optimistic.

"We strongly believe that there is a strong appetite for advanced services by the customers," Tachikawa said through an interpreter at a news conference following the keynote speech.

Tachikawa last month denied the rollout coming this month is less than a full commercial service. The plan for a smaller deployment arose as a result of bugs in the network, some of which are still there, he said at a Tokyo news conference. DoCoMo is also looking forward to further generations of high-speed mobile communications -- 4G and 5G technology -- to deliver better mobile multimedia services, Tachikawa said. He looks to the 4G services to provide 2M bps (bits per second) to devices moving at high speed and 20M bps to stationary devices, all at a cost one-tenth that of initial 3G services.

The future growth of telecommunications in Japan will be driven by machine-to-machine communications, as mobile device use levels off and more advanced applications are developed, Tachikawa said.

"We want to provide services not only to people but to anything that can move," Tachikawa said in a keynote address on the third day of the conference. He ticked off a series of statistics about Japan -- 100 million automobiles, 60 million bicycles, 10 million motorcycles, even 20 million pets -- that he said represent an opportunity for growth in wireless communications.

A video that followed the keynote showed some of the visionary services and devices DoCoMo sees coming by 2010, such as portable videophones, automated personal secretaries, and wireless systems in cars that can pick up location signals from the mobile phones of pedestrians, braking the car automatically if a collision is threatened.

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