Apple announced today that it will begin to sell the iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina display in Japan on NTT DOCOMO’s network starting June 10. NTT DOCOMO is the country’s largest carrier and what is notable about the announcement is that it has taken a relatively long time for company to start offering the iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina display, which were both released in November.
NTT DOCOMO’s site currently lists LTE plans for both iPad models, but they won’t be available for pre-order until June 2, which also happens to be the first day of Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WDC) in San Francisco.
This is not the first time that NTT DOCOMO has experienced in a delay before offering a new Apple product. Back in October 2013, the company said it experienced a record monthly drop in subscribers for September 2013, even though it was the lone remaining major Japanese carrier without the iPhone available until the release of the iPhone 5s and 5c, which also occurred in September 2013. On the other hand, its competitors KDDI and Softbank received net subscriber additions that month thanks to the iPhone’s launch.
Going further back, it took NTT DOCOMO until late 2013 to start selling the iPhone, four years after competitor Softbank signed an exclusive deal with Apple to start selling the iPhone 3G in Japan in 2008, which helped Softbank become a bonafide NTT DOCOMO competitor.
In 2011, negotiations between Apple and NTT DOCOMO over the iPhone reportedly dragged out because Apple was unwilling to let the carrier install its own apps, including an e-wallet and mail service, on the smartphones. In return, NTT DOCOMO expressed concern about the large volume of iPhones Apple wanted it to commit to, with president and CEO Ryuji Yamada telling Dow Jones Newswires that “if the introduction of the iPhone results in the mass majority of our products occupied by the iPhone, then that’s a scenario that’s difficult for us to swallow.”
A NTT DOCOMO spokesman told TechCrunch “Quite simply we have been considering to have the iPad ready for our network, and it took a little time to prepare for the launch. We have been getting requests from our customers that they want to use iPad on DOCOMO’s network, so we are happy that we can now offer it to our customers.”