Japan’s three mobile operators continued to face headwinds in their fiscal Q2 ending 30 September.

Number two KDDI managed to register a 4.9 per cent profit gain in the quarter despite mobile service revenue remaining flat. Market leader NTT Docomo posted a sharp drop in net profit but saw mobile turnover grow 3.3 per cent (see chart, above).

SoftBank’s telecoms operations in Japan, ranked third with an 18.5 per cent market share, reported a fall in both operating income and mobile turnover, with total ARPU falling 8 per cent year-on-year. On the positive side, it added 3.6 million LTE subs year-on-year, closing calendar Q3 with 25.6 million 4G subscribers. Its total mobile subs base rose by 480,000 to 32.8 million.

The top two players also had strong 4G growth and reported increases in total mobile subs. Docomo’s 4G base rose by 5.6 million to 46.9 million, with total mobile subs up by 2.4 million. KDDI picked up 4.2 million LTE users, taking its total to 30.2 million. It also added 2.4 mobile total subs over the past year.

Price pressure eased over the last year, with Docomo’s aggregate ARPU rising 6.6 per cent year-on-year and KDDI’s up 2.2 per cent (the operator reports average revenue per account), but SoftBank’s dropped 8 per cent.

SoftBank’s adjusted EBITDA margin of 42.7 per cent in the quarter was higher than Docomo’s (34.5 per cent) and KDDI’s (33.3 per cent).

Docomo’s equipment sales declined 29 per cent to JPY214 billion in the recent quarter, while KDDI’s handset revenue was flat at JPY201 billion. SoftBank’s product sales also decreased, falling 6.3 per cent to JPY172 billion in the same period.

Over the past year Docomo’s LTE base station count rose by 21,300 to 171,000. It claims to deliver 788Mb/s service in 195 cities nationwide.