NTT Communications Corp., the long-distance and international services arm of the NTT group, plans to enter the local-call market as early as May, company officials said Thursday.

Because rival carriers are preparing to launch comprehensive services combining local, long-distance and international services, NTT Communications has concluded that it needs to offer a wider range of services.

Within the NTT group, headed by holding company Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp., NTT East Corp. offers local phone services in eastern Japan while NTT West Corp. covers western Japan.

NTT East and NTT West are limited to offering local phone services under the NTT Law. NTT Communications, however, is not subject to the restriction.

If NTT Communications enters the local-call market, fierce competition among the NTT group companies may ensue. The group firms are now studying the likely consequences, the officials said. A new service called Myline is scheduled to be introduced to Japan’s telecom market in May in which users can be connected to their preferred carrier without dialing prefix numbers once they register.

Competition is now heating up among local phone companies to attract more customers before the Myline service begins. NTT Communications plans to ask NTT East and NTT West to allow it to use their lines to offer the local-call services, the officials said. NTT Communications has been offering local wireless communication services to corporate customers since summer 1999 but has never offered local phone services to individual customers.

Aussie phone firm talks

NTT DoCoMo Inc., Japan’s largest mobile phone company, is in talks with Telecom New Zealand Ltd. about the possibility of launching a joint bid for a stake in the mobile phone business of Cable & Wireless Optus, the Financial Times said in its international edition Thursday.

Cable & Wireless Optus is Australia’s second-largest mobile phone operator.

NTT DoCoMo and Telecom New Zealand are understood to be interested in taking stakes of about 20 percent each in the mobile arm of Optus.

The two companies are expected to hold initial talks with Optus in the near future and the carrier is believed to be keen to strike a deal before January, it said.

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