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NTT Docomo readies car-sharing app for Japan

Company diversifying into new services as mobile growth slows

TOKYO -- NTT Docomo is partnering with leasing giant Orix group to release a smartphone app for car-sharing as early as this year amid sluggish growth in new mobile phone contracts.

The car-sharing app will be available on "dmarket," Docomo's subscriber-based online marketplace. Subscribers can use the app to reserve vehicles from Orix Auto's car-share stations and pay with their dmarket ID, among other convenient features. Docomo may bring in other car-sharing companies in the future.

The wireless carrier is shifting focus toward building new services with its existing communications infrastructure. Through car-sharing, Docomo will collect data on the driver's age, time spent driving, route and more that can prove useful in developing new services and technology for the auto industry. The company plans to use this data for connected cars as well.

Growth in Docomo's communications business is slowing as it struggles to attract new mobile subscribers, a revenue source that underpinned the Nippon Telegraph and Telephone group's earnings. Japan's car-share subscribers, meanwhile, grew 28% from the previous year as of March 2017 to 1,085,922, according to the Foundation for Promoting Personal Mobility and Ecological Transportation.

In its medium-term plan until 2020, Docomo laid out a strategy to devise new services using 5G communications technology and artificial intelligence.

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