Local media reports Vodafone KK and Japan Telecom may be looking to integrate their mobile and fixed line assets. Such a move would allow cell phones to work as landline handsets for use indoors. Fixed line rates are significantly lower than mobile charges and synchronicity between the two sectors could result in huge savings for individuals and businesses. It would also significantly accelerate Japan Telecom’s move into the wireless sector.
A September 27 story in the Nihon Keizai Daily reported executives from the two firms were in discussions over a proposed service to switch cell phones automatically from cordless to fixed lines while indoors including intra-company calls and those to and from a business via a wireless LAN connection. The entire service would allow users to employ a single phone number.
Japan Telecom is the country?fs third largest fixed line provider and part of the Softbank group. Softbank has fought long and hard for entry into the Japanese cell phone market. On September 5th the company applied for a cell-phone service license over the 1.7GHz radio bandwidth announcing plans to move into mobile data services as early as 2006 and mobile telephony by 2007. Joining forces with Vodafone would accelerate these wireless ventures.
WWJ contacted Vodafone but the company declined to comment on any specifics regarding this report. Vodafone Spokesperson Matthew Nicholson commented by email, ?gAs you may be aware, we established a Wholesale Business Unit (WBU) on 1 August to look at various options (MVNO, FMC etc.) within the changing telecoms landscape here in Japan. It is true they are looking at a number of options, but nothing has been formally decided at this point.?h
Both KDDI and NTT are anxious to exploit the hybrid sector as well. Japan?fs Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications is currently studying phasing in interoperability of fixed line and mobile services. Some info in English [.PDF] Without quoting sources, the Nikkei estimates hybrid integrated phase in could come by 2007.