(Recasts, adds backgrounds and comments)
TOKYO Dec 25 Japan's NTT DoCoMo Inc (9437.T) is
considering a tie-up with Google Inc (GOOG.O), adopting the Web
giant's search and email features in its mobile phone Internet
service, company sources said on Tuesday.
The move marks a strategic shift for Japan's largest
wireless operator by seeking a partner, as the firm has been
lagging behind much smaller rivals in luring new subscribers in
For Google, the alliance will provide access to DoCoMo's 48
million users of "i-mode" mobile phone Internet service as it
tries to expand its presence in Japan, where Yahoo Japan Corp
(4689.T) leads the Web search market.
The alliance may eventually lead to the development of new
functions and handsets, the sources said.
As of 0409 GMT, shares of DoCoMo were up 3.3 percent to
190,000 yen by mid-morning, outperforming a 1.6 percent gain by
the benchmark Nikkei average .N225.
"We are currently studying the possibility of an alliance in
search services with domestic or overseas partners, but nothing
has been decided yet," DoCoMo spokesman Hiroto Nakagawa said.
Starting as early as spring, users will be able to access
Goolge searches, email, scheduling and photo-saving features
through DoCoMo's i-mode network service, the Nikkei business
While rival KDDI has already been working with Google in
search and email on its mobile phones, DoCoMo eyes deeper ties
in services and technology with the U.S. firm, including
development of next generation handset featuring Google's
operating system, the Nikkei said.
In a note to clients, Nomura Securities analyst Daisaku
Masuno said DoCoMo's move is expected to boost the firm's data
traffic revenue as expansion in services should increase page
DoCoMo, which controls over half of Japan's mobile market,
has been losing its market share amid a fierce price war.
Softbank Corp (9984.T), the smallest carrier, signed up a
net 191,600 additional subscribers in November, beating its
rivals for the seventh straight month. DoCoMo got the smallest
number of net users among the three, with 48,200.
(Reporting by Taiga Uranaka; Editing by Malcolm Whittaker)