Japan's NTT DoCoMo signs up 1 million LTE users in a month, hits 5 million total

The country's largest carrier is seeing LTE subscribers accelerate as it offers new devices and contracts

NTT DoCoMo said Monday its LTE users continue to increase rapidly, with the latest million signing up in less than a month.

Japan's largest mobile operator said it had reached 5 million LTE subscribers on Sunday. On July 22, the company previously announced it had 4 million, meaning the latest million took only 28 days.

DoCoMo ranks among the world's top carriers in terms of LTE subscribers. Verizon in the U.S. has over 10 million, while Korea's SK Telecom said it broke 4 million in July. SK Telecom aims for 7 million subscribers by the end of 2012.

LTE, or long term evolution, is quickly becoming a global standard for high-speed wireless data services. The standard, which offers downloads of up to 75 M bps (bits per second), is being rolled out by major carriers in the U.S., Europe and Asia, and has been included on major devices such as Samsung's Galaxy S III. Many analysts believe Apple's iPhone 5, due out later this year, will also have the technology.

DoCoMo, which originally proposed LTE as a global standard in 2004, has rolled out its service under the Xi (pronounced "crossy") brand and says it offers 75 M bps in limited locations, though actual results vary.

The company has recently stepped up its efforts to draw customers to Xi, offering an unlimited talk plan among subscribers and discounted data plans. It now offers several data modems as well as nearly a dozen phones that use the LTE service, including the Galaxy S III.

Its LTE plan currently costs ¥6,510 (US$82) and provides up to 7GB of data before it cuts off to a lower connection speed, without voice services.

DoCoMo first launched its LTE service in Dec. of 2010. With limited devices and coverage, it didn't sign up its first million users until a year later. Another Japanese provider, eAccess, has also launched an LTE data service, and the country's second-largest carrier, au, has said it will begin services in December of this year.

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Jay Alabaster

IDG News Service

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