TOKYO (Reuters) - Apple Inc'sAAPL.O iPhone could get a sales boost from this month as a Japanese wireless services provider plans to launch a service enabling users to use iPhone 4 on NTT DoCoMo's9437.T network.
DoCoMo's smaller rival Softbank Corp9984.T is currently the sole supplier of the wildly popular iPhone and iPad tablet computer in Japan and has been showing strong subscriber growth thanks to the devices, which are locked to Softbank's network.
But DoCoMo's network is said to be stronger than that of Softbank, and the move by Japan Communications 9424.OJ to sell subscriber identity module (SIM) cards that have DoCoMo network information and can be used with unlocked iPhone 4s that are sold online or abroad may attract those who prefer the DoCoMo network.
The news sent Japan Communications shares up 14.6 percent on Friday, while Softbank dropped 1.7 percent. DoCoMo, which is Japan’s biggest wireless operator and has been beefing up smartphone offerings to counter iPhone, gained 2.9 percent.
Aiming to boost competition, the Japanese government has suggested mobile carriers lift restrictions blocking the use of different SIM cards in mobile phones and allow users to switch carriers without changing their handsets.
DoCoMo has said it plans to follow the guidelines from next April, but Softbank has not yet agreed to do so.
Analysts expect Apple to ship 10 million or more iPhones per quarter. Japan was one of the first markets to have the latest iPhone, which debuted on June 24, and the launch drew hundreds of people to Softbank and Apple stores in Tokyo.
(Reporting by Sachi Izumi; Editing by Michael Watson)