NTT DoCoMo mulls foreign investments

Japan's largest mobile telecommunications carrier, NTT Mobile Telecommunications (NTT DoCoMo), has confirmed it is eyeing partnerships and equity stakes in carriers worldwide as they seek to deploy third generation cellular networks.

"Our stress on international expansion is on Asia, although there are general possibilities in Europe," Yuki Isono, a company spokeswoman, said. She added the company would consider taking stakes in cellular carriers around the world should an attractive chance appear.

NTT DoCoMo is not currently one-on-one talks with carriers regarding such investments and had not held any to date, she confirmed.

The carrier first revealed it was looking overseas when NTT DoCoMo president Keiji Tachikawa, speaking at Telecom 99 in Geneva last month, said he was interested in striking alliances with Asian carriers to help them launch next generation cellular services. NTT DoCoMo is a major force in the development of Wideband CDMA (WCDMA) and plans, in 2001, to become the first carrier in the world to launch a commercial service.

The company's plans to look further afield, into Europe, were revealed by managing director Kiyoyuki Tsujimura in an interview with the Financial Times. He told the newspaper, "There is a possibility of doing something with Mannesmann. We could do something with Vodafone, France Telecom or Deutsche Telekom."

Some reports in the past few weeks have gone further, naming DoCoMo as a potential bidder for one of the UK's third-generation (3G) licenses, although Tsujimura said the company was interested in doing something with UK operator Orange PLC when they enter the 3G arena.