FRAMINGHAM (08/17/2000) - A spokesman for BellSouth Corp. and SBC Communications Inc. issued terse "no comments" in response to news stories that NTT DoCoMo Inc. in Japan has entered into talks to buy a 10% to 15% stake in their new, and as yet unnamed, joint wireless venture.
Analysts view the news reports as an accurate reflection of real talks between DoCoMo, the wireless arm of Tokyo-based Nippon Telephone and Telegraph Co. and the two U.S. carriers, with a lot of potential for all three players. NTT DoCoMo has enjoyed widespread success in the wireless data field with its I-mode, short-messaging service phones.
Jeffrey Kagan, a telecom industry analyst, says the company wants to extend that service to the United States. "This would give DoCoMo a foot in the door here . . . and would offer Bell South and SBC the opportunity to provide a brand new category of communications," he says.
Kagan added that if the deal goes through, it would put the new wireless joint venture between Atlanta-based BellSouth and Dallas-based SBC "at the top of the heap" in U.S. wireless carriers. When SBC and BellSouth complete the combination of their wireless operations, they will have 18 million subscribers, making the joint venture the second-largest behind New York-based Verizon Communications, which has 24 million customers.