Softbank Rival to Offer SIM Card for Use in IPhone 4

Softbank Corp., Japan’s only provider of Apple Inc.’s iPhone, is losing part of that exclusivity as Japan Communications Inc. starts offering chips that let the smartphone access another network.

Japan Communications will offer a Subscriber Identity Module, a chip that allows unlocked iPhone 4s to use NTT DoCoMo Inc.’s network, Japan Communications said in a statement today. The service will cost 5,280 yen ($62) a month for unlimited data use with a separate charge for voice calls and will be available Aug. 26 for users who reserved online, according to a statement by the company.

Softbank remains the only carrier that sells the iPhone in Japan, where handsets are locked, meaning they will not accept SIM cards from other providers. Japan Communications’ SIM cards will work with unlocked iPhone 4 models that can be purchased online or outside Japan.

Japan Communications offers mobile phone services by leasing a portion of DoCoMo’s network. The company’s iPhone plan also allows users to connect a laptop to the Internet via the smartphone, a service not offered by Softbank.

The company has no immediate plan to offer 3-G SIM cards for Apple’s iPad tablet computer, Frank Seiji Sanda, chief executive officer, said today in Tokyo.

Share Performance

DoCoMo, Japan’s largest mobile phone carrier, rose 0.2 percent to close at 142,100 yen on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. Softbank, the country’s third-largest, fell 2.7 percent to 2,468 yen, the biggest decline since July 16.

Japan’s smartphone shipments will probably exceed 3 million units in the 12 months from April 1, while the overall mobile-phone market is expected to contract for a third year, according to MM Research Institute Ltd.

Apple shipped 1.69 million iPhones in the year ended March 31 and has 72 percent of the country’s smartphone market, MM Research said in April. Handsets made by Taiwan’s HTC Corp., which run on Android and Microsoft Corp.’s Windows software, were second with 11 percent, the Tokyo-based researcher said.

Android, which also runs on tablet computers, may overtake Apple’s iOS, the operating system for the iPad and iPhone, in two years, El Segundo, California-based industry researcher ISuppli Corp. said yesterday. Google’s software will probably run on 75 million phones in 2012, compared with 62 million handsets for iOS, it said.

Handset Sales

DoCoMo’s mobile-phone sales will probably rise 1 percent to 18.2 million units in the year ending March 2011, the Tokyo-based company said last month. The carrier hasn’t disclosed smartphone sales figures for last fiscal year.

DoCoMo started selling its third Android model last month, while Softbank offers one Android phone. KDDI Corp., Japan’s second-largest carrier, introduced its first handset running the software developed by Google in June.

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