All of Japan’s carriers devote an extraordinary amount of time, effort, and resources to creating marketing and sale materials designed to entice customers, boost sales, and — let’s be frank — brag about their networks and handsets. The Big Five (NTT DoCoMo, KDDI/Au, J-Phone, DDI Pocket, and Tu-Ka) produce monthly full-color catalogs touting the latest in handsets, networks and data services, calling plans and discounts, and customer support services. DoCoMo also conveniently produces a quarterly compendium of their monthly issues in English, while KDDI makes their calling plans and discount options widely available in English, Korean, Chinese, and several other languages. We combed through several carrier brochures and extracted some gems of info that are rarely if ever mentioned by English-language press, but that help to illustrate the depth and scope of the wireless business here. Without further ado, herewith we present WWJ’s first quarterly Review of Japan Keitai Trivia. Rabid Japan wireless devotees (and you know who you are) won’t want to miss this.
Without further ado, herewith we present WWJ’s first Quarterly Review of Japan Keitai Trivia.
** Agree, True or False: “I obtained a CDMA handset from NTT DoCoMo and used it to make and receive calls; my friends called me at my NTT DoCoMo telephone number and I could also retrieve my i-mode email. I also used a dual-mode PDC/GSM handset to make calls overseas and in Japan.”
–> Absolutely true! DoCoMo, which operates PDC, W-CDMA, and PHS networks in Japan (no GSM or CDMA), also provides a global roaming service called “World Walker.” You bring your domestic handset to one of several DoCoMo airport offices (Narita, Kansai, Nagoya, Fukuoka, etc.) and pick up a CDMA handset (P601wk) that works in Korea, Australia, the US, etc.; any calls made to your domestic mobile number will be forwarded to your temporary handset while you are out of Japan. Heading to a GSM market? Grab a hold of an N601wg, an honest-to-goodness **dual-mode** GSM/PDC handset that works in both Japan and 900Mhz GSM countries (phone display in English and Japanese).
Needless to say, the service isn’t cheap: you’ll be dinged 1,000 yen per day or 20,000 yen per month just to use the handset, and 109-270 yen per minute for CDMA calls (e.g. Australia –> Japan, UK –> Japan); you’ll also pay to receive calls (could be a nasty shock for domestic keitai users used to “caller pays all”). You can apply for World Walker online (in Japanese) here.
** Agree, True or False: “I called to the top of Fuji-san via satellite phone. I used the same phone to make a PDC call to Club Pylon in Roppongi.”
–> True again! Big D’s “WideStar” service offers satellite calling nationwide (“DoCoMo WideStar is an excellent tool for remote observation of dangerous areas such as volcanoes”), and you can also make calls on the PDC network if you have a dual-mode capable 2G handset as well (the photo shows a 2G PDC handset plugged into the WideStar main unit). We guess the fees aren’t cheap (you’re asked to “Check the DoCoMo Mobile Satellite Communications Service Catalog for more info”), but you can try before you buy at one of the Mobile Multimedia Labs in Shinjuku or Marunouchi.
** Agree, True or False: “Me and three colleagues all share a DoCoMo phone. We each insert our personalized data cards, enter a PIN, and then our calls are billed individually.”
–> Nope! You’re wrong! This is also true. DoCoMo offers two car phone models (the E208 and E401); they allow several different account holders to share a single terminal. It’ll cost you 111,500 yen (that’s about US$1,000!!) for the E208 plus 19,500 yen for installation; luckily, the little 6-inch-long metallic-strip thingy that allows you to mount the transceiver in your trunk is a much more reasonable 2,000 yen. ;-( Since the cost is fixed and quoted in the catalog, we guess these babies are only available via DoCoMo and not from any discount retailer.
** Here’s a stumper: “I registered my credit card number into my J-Phone handset, and then used it to buy some CDs and a book.” True or false?
–> Again, true! Use J-Phone’s “SkyCheck” service to access merchants like Isetan Department Store, Sanrio, TBS Shop, and others. You can use your JCB, Visa, or Mastercard. You can also pay to access the J-Navi map data service and the J-Sky Photo system.
** Finally, how about this one: “I used my 3G FOMA handset to watch a streaming video clip of Wireless Watch Japan.” True or false?
–> Utterly false! But we admit this is a trick question… No, it’s not that at least one program from WWJ isn’t available in keitai-screen-size format (one is, our “best of” video, here).
Rather, you still can’t access **any** streaming media via 3G FOMA; FOMA’s “i-motion” service is a download-and-playback system — not streaming — where clips are coded in MPEG 4 using the encoder provided by Montreal’s VoiceAge. If you want to watch streaming video or listen to streaming audio on mobile in Japan, you’ll have to jump back a generation, to DoCoMo’s M Stage Visual and M Stage Music services that run on PHS — a lighter cousin of digital cellular that strongly resembles WLAN.
– Daniel Scuka