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Japan: Some Cell Carriers May Have Wrong Number

Newly able to switch cell phone services without losing their phone numbers, consumers may dial away from vulnerable carriers like Vodafone

In gadget-happy Japan, mobile phone carriers unleash dozens of new handsets crammed with the latest features every spring and fall. Apart from offering the rest of the world a glimpse into the hottest applications in mobile telephony, these biannual rollouts are really about luring new customers from rivals—and holding onto current ones in the world's most competitive mobile market. If that means cramming digital TV receivers into handsets, offering music downloads straight from a 3G network, or even a function that can recognize star constellations, so be it.

Yet for all gizmos—and in Japan, there are plenty—the chances of subscribers switching to another carrier are actually pretty slim. At market leader DoCoMo (DCM ), for instance, churn—the proportion of customers leaving for other carriers—was just 0.64% during the three months through June.