Japan's Largest Mobile Phone Carrier to Tie-Up with Google

Japan's top mobile phone carrier NTT DoCoMo will join with Internet search engine Google to provide Internet search and e-mail services on the company's handsets, news reports said Tuesday.

Starting as early as the spring, users will be able to access Google search, e-mail, scheduling and photo-saving features through NTT DoCoMo's i-Mode Internet network, Japan's main business daily The Nikkei said, without identifying its sources.

The two firms plan to integrate the search feature with handset software, enabling the development of new services, the paper said.

Tokyo-based DoCoMo is also considering developing a next-generation handset using Google's free operating system for mobile devices, it said. Such a phone could be introduced in the second half of next year, paving the way for the companies to roll out a wide range of cutting-edge services.

Kyodo News agency carried a similar report. Phones rang unanswered at DoCoMo early Tuesday.

While DoCoMo has logged strong profits under its existing business model, young customers -- the core users of mobile Internet services -- have recently defected to KDDI Corp. and Softbank Mobile Corp.

DoCoMo has been the sole carrier to lose subscribers since the introduction of number portability in the autumn of 2006. Number portability allows customers to switch carriers but keep the same phone number.

DoCoMo's business strategy has been to handle everything from communications infrastructure to services. With the surge in Internet use, however, the company determined that it could not meet customer needs on its own, the Nikkei said.

For Mountain View, California-based Google , the alliance will give the company better access to the Japanese search engine market, the Nikkei said. Although Google is the world's leading search engine, in Japan it lags behind Yahoo Japan.

Domestic mobile service subscriptions exceed 100 million as of the end of last year, with some 70 million users accessing the Internet through their cellular phones.