NTT DoCoMo announced today that the company will expand its M-stage Visual Net service to include Personal Handyphone System (PHS) and land line phones that have teleconferencing capabilities, starting March 24, 2003. M-stage Visual Net provides a communications platform that enables numerous people to participate simultaneously in mobile videoconferencing.
Launched in October 2002, this service was previously only available to users of teleconferencing-capable handsets(read: FOMA). With the service expansion, users of PHS Lookwalk P751v handsets and Moppet land line phones will also be able to participate in mobile video conferences, though they will not be able to host one. Users hosting the teleconference will be charged a monthly Visual Net service fee of 100 yen, along with additional FOMA transmission charges that apply. CONTINUE
COMMENT: One of the little-reported stories in 2002 was how DoCoMo is going all out to boost usage of its long-established PHS network. The system corresponds to second-generation cellular (but isn’t considered “cellular”) and has lots of capacity – most subscribers receive a 64-Kbps chunk of bandwidth more or less anywhere. Big D’s been pushing this older technology and its multimedia capability as a way to seed the market for the new 3G FOMA system. We first saw 3G terminals last year that could access PHS-based content (the M-Stage-series of services provide streaming video clips and download-and-playback audio files that use Sony’s ATTRAC DRM system), and now it looks like we’re going to get PHS terminals that can access 3G services.
Is this just one more desperate move to try and boost FOMA’s flagging fortunes? Or is it a savvy way to leverage all assets to provide premium services that business users in particular will find attractive? Time will tell…