Cees van den Heijkant, CEO of KPN Mobile The Netherlands, knows wireless Internet almost better than DoCoMo does. His company studied the model, stripped it down to basics, and last April birthed a bouncing baby i-mode that now claims over 200,000 subscribers (starting with only a single, less-than-spectacular handset, no less). Not bad for a process that took a year-and-a-half, required entirely new thinking on how to manage data services, and involved a lot of effort to, as he puts it, “understand how you’re going to bring the content to the customers.” Don’t miss this program!
Comments from Wireless Watch Japan Editor-in-Chief Daniel Scuka:
Today, we bring you the final portion of our coverage from this month’s 3G Mobile World Forum at the Hilton hotel at Tokyo Disneyland. We had the luck to snag Cees van den Heijkant, CEO of KPN Mobile The Netherlands, who provides a candid, behind-the-scenes look at how the i-mode model has been adopted, adapted, and otherwise bashed into shape to fit Europe’s SMS-centric, roaming-obsessed, non-thumb-twiddling GSM market.
It seems appropriate that the notoriously open-minded Dutch were the first to partner with NTT DoCoMo for overseas deployment of its wildly successful, made-in-Japan wireless Internet service. While we could ruminate at length about “new access paradigms” and how the always-on, always-in-your-pocket i-mode is set to revolutionize Holland’s – and Europe’s – staid voice-and-text-message-only mobile market, the fact of the matter is i-mode’s presence in Holland and Germany (on KPN affiliate E-Plus) has a lot more to do with DoCoMo’s life-saving capital investment in KPN than with any visionary wireless Internet thinking. Nonetheless, van den Heijkant has i-mode up and running and soon to enter its second year – and that by itself is pretty cool.
In today’s program, we’ll talk about the differences between the European and Japanese i-mode markets, including wireless Internet usage differences, service definition differences, how content varies, and how KPN worked (Sweat?) to learn from DoCoMo: What the heck do we do with i-mode?
Our guest also says how the model is working, cites issues to be resolved (“How do you apply the i-mode business model [to Europe's] billing structure? Can billing be event-based?”), and what KPN learned from DoCoMo that came as a surprise (think ‘content governance model’).
Interesting facts: The most successful content in Holland? “Ring tones,” says van den Heijkant, adding that “financial info, traffic info, daily news, and erotic content are all popular.” Sounds highly familiar, desu ne?
It may also be no surprise that listening to van den Heijkant, a poised, fair-haired, and eloquent Dutchman, is eerily like listening to NTT DoCoMo’s i-mode guru Takeshi Natsuno; van den Heijkant spent a lot of time with Natsuno to develop KPN’s i-mode. The KPN folks have clearly studied the model well, paid attention when DoCoMo has spoken, and can rattle off the catechism as well as any senior Sanno Park maven.
Some may wonder whether i-mode in Europe will evolve into something quite different than the animal it is in Japan – like in natural selection where a species splits into two new lines when some members migrate into a new and different environment. But this may not happen to any great extent. “I think we must conclude there are no real differences between the Japanese and the West European world regarding mobile data services,” says van den Heijkant, and gives some good reasons why he thinks so. Watch today’s program to get the rest!