NTT DoCoMo to end 2G cellular service in 2012

NTT DoCoMo will switch off its second-generation cell phone network in just over three years, the company said Friday.

The carrier was first in the world to launch commercial 3G service when it debuted a network in Tokyo in October 2001 and, after some early technology troubles were sorted out, has benefited from a user base that is quick to adopt new technology and a local business model that gives it the ability to dictate technology and features put in handsets by manufacturers.

The company, which has a 51 percent market share, released its last 2G phone in 2004 and saw its 3G subscribers outnumber those on the 2G network in the middle of 2006.

At the end of December 2008, about 88 percent of the carrier's 54 million subscribers were on the 3G network. The remaining 6.7 million will be offered incentives to make the jump to the 3G network before it closes on March 31, 2012, it said.

NTT DoCoMo's 3G network is based on the WCDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access) standard that has become the dominant 3G technology in use worldwide. In contrast, its 2G network is based on the home-grown PDC (Personal Digital Communications) standard that was developed by NTT DoCoMo but never got any support outside of Japan.

The intention to switch off 2G was announced as NTT DoCoMo released its financial results for the first nine months of its current fiscal year, which covers the April to December period of 2008. Revenue during the period was ¥3.4 trillion yen (US$37.6 billion), a 4 percent drop on the same period in 2007, while net profit rose 16 percent to ¥438 billion.

During the last three months of the year, NTT DoCoMo managed to reduce its churn rate and the number of customers coming to the carrier from competitors was more than the number leaving for competitors.

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