Experts see 2003 shaping up to be a banner year. For starters, DoCoMo, KDDI and J-Phone will all be coming out with refined 2G equipment. They’ll also be rolling out new 3G systems, expanding rich-media services and launching camera-enabled, programmable handsets that can serve as “e-wallet” and “e-ticket” mobile-commerce terminals.
In late 2001, domestic heavyweight NTT DoCoMo, flying high on the popularity of its i-mode mobile Web service, launched the world’s first ultrahigh-speed, “third-generation” wireless network.
Nonfunctional prototypes from the Wireless Japan Expo Comm 2002 (above) show how handsets maysoon look when 3G, then 4G, expand the functions of a keitai to incorporate digital TV, smart-card e-commerce, remote monitoring and more… (NOOPER.COM PHOTOS)
By now, Japanese i-moders were supposed to be busily videoconferencing, watching movies, listening to audio in real-time and speedily 3G-surfing the Web pretty much everywhere. Instead, 3G seems stuck in neutral and DoCoMo — resoundingly brought to earth by the embarrassing meltdown of multibillion-yen i-mode-based investments in European and American mobile carriers — appears to have gotten its fingers burned.
Critics gleefully point to continuing problems with the carrier’s FOMA (Freedom of Mobile Multimedia Access) 3G network, including lack of coverage, buggy terminals, anemic battery life — and glaringly few subscribers.
According to industry experts, though, nothing could be further from the truth. DoCoMo has gained valuable expertise in building high-speed mobile services, they say, and early 2003 will see the deployment of much-improved 3G handsets that will go a long way to rebuilding the company’s reputation for “cool.”