Vodafone K.K. on Wednesday unveiled seven cell phone models for the yearend shopping season.
The new models are part of the firm’s global procurement of handsets, in which respective regional units of the Vodafone Group share the same models, thereby cutting procurement costs. The Japanese unit of the global wireless giant is trying to bridge the gap between its two bigger rivals in third-generation services.
The new models will hit the market sometime between November and December. The exact release date has not been decided, company officials said. Prices will be left to retailers’ discretion.
The models are being produced by both Japanese and foreign manufacturers, including Nokia and Motorola, which have not had much of a market presence in Japan.
Six of the models will also be released in overseas markets, mainly in Europe, around the same time as their release in Japan, the officials said. The seventh model, produced by NEC Corp., will only be sold in Japan.
The six models can be used overseas and will also function as international video phones, they said.
Vodafone hopes the simultaneous release of so many models will boost its 3G network service.
The company started the 3G service in Japan in December 2002, but it has been lagging behind rivals NTT DoCoMo Inc. and KDDI Corp.
As of the end of August, KDDI had 15.5 million subscribers to its 3G service and DoCoMo had 5.9 million, while Vodafone had just 237,600.
The carriers have been urging subscribers to switch over to 3G, which can send pictures, moving images and other data more quickly than the old network, translating into a wider variety of revenue sources for the carriers.
Vodafone’s poor showing is apparently due to its poor selection of 3G handsets — it has only two.
Kazuyuki Mori, general manager of Vodafone’s product management division, told a news conference that the firm is ready to catch up.
“We are making progress in developing new models,” he said.
With the introduction of the new 3G models, attention will be focused on whether Vodafone will follow NTT DoCoMo and KDDI in introducing flat-rate services for Internet connections on cell phones, as subscribers often worry about racking up hefty bills when using high-speed 3G services.
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