Japanese telecom carrier NTT Docomo Inc (NYSE:DCM) (TYO:9437) said Monday that it lost a record number of subscribers in September. That’s surprising because the company was expecting an increase after the addition of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s new iPhones to its lineup. Japan’s No.1 telecom operator is struggling to regain the market share it has lost to Softbank Corp (OTCMKTS:SFTBF) (TYO:9984) and KDDI Corp (TYO:9433).

NTT DoCoMo

NTT DoCoMo blames new iPhones

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) launched two new iPhones that went on sale on September 20. Before that NTT Docomo Inc (NYSE:DCM) (TYO:9437) had avoided offering iPhones to its customers. The Japanese company was focused on smartphones made by Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. (LON:BC94) (KRX:005930) and Sony Corporation (NYSE:SNE) (TYO:6758).

NTT Docomo Inc (NYSE:DCM) (TYO:9437) said in an e-mail that it lost 66,800 subscribers in September, reports Reuters. The company blamed the decline to new iPhones. An NTT Docomo Inc (NYSE:DCM) (TYO:9437) spokesperson said that customers delayed purchases until the launch of the new iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C. And then insufficient supply of those devices hurt its business.

That contrasts with strong gains in subscriber bases of its rivals Softbank Corp (OTCMKTS:SFTBF) (TYO:9984) and KDDI Corp (TYO:9433), riding on the new iPhones. Thanks to the iPhone 5S and 5C, Softbank Corp (OTCMKTS:SFTBF) (TYO:9984) added 270,700 new users and KDDI Corp (TYO:9433) added 232,700 subscribers in September. Experts speculate that NTT Docomo Inc (NYSE:DCM) (TYO:9437) underestimated the demand of new iPhones. So, it placed lower initial orders compared to its competitors.

NTT DoCoMo losing market to competitors

NTT Docomo Inc (NYSE:DCM) (TYO:9437)’s market share in Japan has declined from 52% in 2008 to less than 46% today. Its competitors benefited by adding iPhones to their lineup much earlier. As of September 2013, NTT Docomo Inc (NYSE:DCM) (TYO:9437) has 61.8 million users. It is still much ahead of KDDI Corp (TYO:9433), which has 39 million subscribers, and Softbank Corp (OTCMKTS:SFTBF) (TYO:9984) that has about 34 million users.

Softbank Corp (OTCMKTS:SFTBF) (TYO:9984) contributed to 39.5% of the total Japanese sales of new iPhones in September. NTT Docomo Inc (NYSE:DCM) (TYO:9437) was ranked second with 31.9% share, followed by KDDI Corp (TYO:9433) with 28.6%, according to data provider BCN.

American shares of NTT Docomo Inc (NYSE:DCM) (TYO:9437) skidded 1.06% to $15.91 at 9:37 AM EDT. The stock is up 10.49% this year so far.