For the first time ever, NTT Docomo Inc, Japan’s largest mobile network operator, will be selling unlocked handsets beginning April 2011.

NTT Docomo is the first carrier to have specifically responded to the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry’s request at the end of June last year for mobile phone companies to make their handsets SIM-free. There has been no word as to whether or not rival network operator Softbank will be unlocking its phones too.  The ministry didn’t specify the handset models that are required to be SIM-free, allowing operators to decide which.

New Docomo handsets released starting April 2011 will be equipped with a software program capable of unlocking it upon request at Docomo outlets for a fee of 3,150 Yen ($38) thereby allowing users greater freedom in choosing handsets and service providers. Japanese tech blog Softbank Sucks mentions that the fees only apply for phones that are retained in contract and early cancellation would result in ineligibility to discounts and subsidies. The company adds that it will not unlock previous models.