Most of Japan’s major Internet service providers are starting to see a leveling off in the growth in the number of subscribers to their services.

The number of people newly subscribing to broadband high-speed, large-capacity services, such as asymmetrical digital subscriber lines, is rising, but the amount of people using slower dial-up access services is decreasing.

At some providers, the falls in the dial-up category are larger than the gains in broadband subscribers, causing a dent in the overall number of subscribers.

An industry official said some providers are also padding the number of clients in their releases.

“Some companies are counting past subscribers or people receiving free-of-charge content,” the official said.

Japan Telecom Holdings Co. reported that the number of broadband subscribers to its ODN Net access services grew to 340,000 as of the end of last year, up from 300,000 at the end of September.

But the total number of ODN subscribers fell to 1.87 million from 1.90 million.

Nifty Corp., Japan’s largest Net access provider, stopped publicly announcing the number of its subscribers after reporting 5.24 million subscribers as of the end of June. Nifty is owned by electronics firm Fujitsu Ltd.

NEC Corp., another electronics firm, said the number of Biglobe subscribers rose to 4.18 million at the end of last year from 4.15 million as of Sept. 30. The rate of increase had slowed, however.

At DION, run by telephone company KDDI Corp., the number of subscribers came to 2.3 million at the end of 2002, only 10,000 more than the total three months earlier.

Sony Communication Network Corp., a unit of Sony Corp., said its So-net services had 2.29 million subscribers at the end of last year, little changed from the number as of Sept. 30.

But the Yahoo BB ADSL service, operated by the Softbank Corp. group, is seeing a sharp rise in the number of its subscribers.

The number surpassed 1 million at the end of September, up from 779,000 at the end of July, and had risen to 1.69 million by the end of December.

Analysts said Yahoo BB is becoming more popular on the strength of the BB Phone IP (Internet protocol) telephone services introduced by the Softbank group last April, a step ahead of its rivals.

IP phone services are known for their extremely low prices, compared with conventional telephone services.

According to the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development, Japan is the world’s second-largest Internet power after the United States in terms of the number of Net users.

In 2001, there were 57.9 million Net users in Japan, compared with 142.8 million in the U.S. China ranked third with 33.7 million Net users.

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