Telecommunications Minister Toranosuke Katayama said Tuesday he will urge Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. to voluntarily craft and submit a business plan to increase competition among its group firms.

The plan should feature a reduction in NTT’s equity stake in NTT DoCoMo Inc., the group’s mobile phone giant, to less than 50 percent, said Katayama, minister of public management, home affairs, posts and telecommunications.

“We will demand that NTT volunteer to devise an action program (for inducing greater competition) as quickly as possible,” he said.

Katayama dismissed NTT’s newly crafted three-year management plan, announced Monday, as “irrelevant” to any move to create a more competitive market environment.

It is unclear how NTT’s plan promotes competition because it is based on a major transfer of “tens of thousands of workers” to firms that NTT itself would establish. NTT would then outsource maintenance and other tasks to the new companies.

Katayama’s ministry has been urging NTT — a holding company that includes NTT DoCoMo, two large regional carriers NTT East Corp. and NTT West Corp. and long-distance and international calling arm NTT Communications Corp. — to cut its stakes in NTT Communications and NTT DoCoMo to less than 50 percent.

NTT, however, has steadfastly refused to comply with the ministry’s demand.

An NTT official said, “We cannot commit to anything concerning proposed cutbacks in our stakes (in NTT subsidiaries) in view of our relationships with shareholders” in the holding company, which would see its share price plummet if NTT weakens capital ties with those arms.

The government is NTT’s largest shareholder.

Plans to expedite competition in Japan’s telecom market “are spelled out in both the government’s three-year deregulation program and the e-Japan Strategy,” Katayama said. “They mirror the resolve of the government.”

The government’s e-Japan Strategy calls for hooking up at least 30 million households to a high-speed data access network and a further 10 million households to an ultra high-speed data access network within five years.

4G may be moved up

NTT DoCoMo Inc. is considering launching its fourth-generation mobile phone service between 2006 and 2007 instead of 2010 as initially planned, the chairman of Japan’s biggest mobile phone operator said Tuesday.

The development of the service “must be moved forward” in light of rapid changes in the telecommunications business, Koji Ohboshi said at a meeting.

The system will have a transmission speed of 30 megabits per second — 3,000 times faster than the current system — and will enable users to see sharp video on phones, including people on the other end of the line.

NTT DoCoMo is scheduled to begin its third-generation service at the end of May.

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