DoCoMo Chieftain Tachikawa gave his final press conference of the year and looked happier and more relaxed than we’ve seen him for some time. And he should. After good first half financials and FOMA finally taking off, he was able to give a good spin on DoCoMo’s performance and managed to sling an arrow at Microsoft, as only a spin-off from a monopoly can! Japan’s phone market unexpectedly achieved solid 1H growth; net additions were almost the same 1H 03. 2H was down, but overall growth for DoCoMo will be 80 percent of 02. Japan’s phone market is NOT saturated. DoCoMo still thinks it will achieve 8 percent growth. Non-voice is growing, as well as voice. Japan’s penetration rate still lower than Europe. DoCoMo still sees growth opportunities. Full Program Run-time 20:24
I-mode subscribers have passed more than 40 million, 88 percent DoCoMo’s entire subscriber base. 20 million i-appli and 20 million camera-enabled phones.
1.6 million subscribers, up 600,000 in November. Revised target for March 31, ’04 is now 2 million. Two generations of new models, in spring and autumn ,are due, and DoCoMo will release details of the first set soon. Now, 20 percent of FOMA users are sending video calls, and video call functions started taking off after FOMA subscriptions hit the million mark. New base stations lowered capex to 800 billion yen for the year.
HSDPA handsets are already on order from manufacturers and first models will be on the market at the end of 04. Commercial launch will be 1H05 with an estimated 2 Mbps throughput (“Much faster than EVDO,” remarked Tachikawa.) Mmm, but KDDI still has 5x the 3G subs!
Tachikawa is putting heavy emphasis on FeliCa. FOMA-WLAN experiments at Narita with JAL have started and RFID tag experiments are proceeding at Roppongi Hills. Credit Card settlement with infra red with Visa and Nicos cards are also proceeding, but, while these are more than chaff, Tachikawa made it crystal clear that FeliCa is the killer app platform from which DoCoMo wants to morph the mobile into a Ubiquitous network device.”
DoCoMo says it’s making “Steady progress” with i-mode: Now 1 million subscribers across continental Europe; uptake is accelerating. On top of the recent Italian push, COSMOTE should sprinting to the i-mode line and flexing its apps and contents muscles at next year’s Athens Olympics. Tachikawa also notes that there are 10 countries joining the EU next year, so there was a whiff of a hint of a suggestion that DoCoMo, having turned West and been sort of rebuffed, is now looking eastward.
3G is dead in the water for another quarter. Then suddenly it’s going to take off next year. We’ll see how far it gets beyond Italy and Australia.
The inflexion point: for us one of Tachikawa’s most interesting points was that PDC uptake has now probably peaked. He suggested that September’s net adds would be the final hurrah of 2G and PDC will now slide gracefully into subscriber retirement, sharing 50 million users with FOMA in 2007
And now the juicy bit: Tachikawa basically slapped up a big note on DoCoMo’s marble-pillared, deluxe interior Urban Net Otemachi Building saying “NO ENTRY” to avuncular uncle Microsoft. Of course, with the modesty becoming a chieftain who can order companies such as NEC to build whatever he wants, Tachikawa “Prefers” Symbian and possibly Linux for 3G OS. We’ll leave you with the quote:
“Simply speaking, Microsoft is not offering an open standard and an open minded approach.”
– The Editors