UPDATE1-Softbank says to sell iPhones for Y23,040 in Japan

Mon Jun 23, 2008 9:53am BST

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(Updates with more details)

TOKYO, June 23 (Reuters) - Softbank Corp (9984.T), Japan's third-biggest mobile phone operator, said on Monday it would sell Apple Inc's (AAPL.O) iPhones starting from 23,040 yen ($214.6) in Japan.

Softbank said the monthly charge for iPhone users would be 7,280 yen, including unlimited data-transmission usage, if subscribers sign up for a plan that allows them to talk free between Softbank subscribers most of the day.

That would be nearly 70 percent higher than the firm's average income of 4,310 yen per user in the last quarter, and chief executive Masayoshi Son said the iPhone would be a plus for the company's earnings.

"We expect users who pay a lot to migrate from au (KDDI's mobile arm) and DoCoMo," Son told a group of reporters. "There have been users who were just attracted to our low price, but the main point this time is feature attractiveness rather than price."

An entry-level version of the new iPhone with 8 gigabytes of memory will cost 23,040 yen, while a higher-end model with twice the memory will cost 34,560 yen. Users can pay for the device over the course of two years.

Softbank and bigger rival NTT DoCoMo (9437.T) had been fighting for the right to launch the iPhone in Japan. Softbank won a contract to sell the much-hyped device from July 11, but DoCoMo said it had not given up on talks.

Earlier this month, Apple unveiled a new iPhone with faster Internet access that will run on advanced wireless networks. It said it would sell the new model for as low as $199 -- half the current entry-level price.

Softbank said it was still unclear how many phones it can secure for the start date because the Japan launch of the next-generation iPhone is part of a rollout in 22 countries and regions next month.

"We expect the first lot to evaporate instantly. We in the company will probably fight to get one as well," Son said. "Supplies will likely be scarce for a while."

Softbank's shares closed down 1.5 percent at 1,843 yen, while the broader Nikkei 225 index .N25 lost 0.6 percent. (Reporting by Sachi Izumi; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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