CEATEC, otherwise known as ‘Disneyland for mobi-keeners,’ is possibly planet Earth’s most intense concentration of mobile goodies. KDDI’s “EZ Channel” system, launched together with flat-rate data billing and the high-speed 1X EV-DO “WIN” 3G network in late 2003, is one of the few content services optimised for the network’s 2.4-Mbps nominal speed. WWJ went to CEATEC to grab the details on EZ Channel, which includes a unique overnight download feature that makes use of the quietest time of the day to deliver up to 3 megabytes of video programming to subscribers’ handsets while the network snoozes.
The EZ Channel service allows subscribers to select 3 programs from a menu of 53 channels (by end-October 2005), including news, weather, sports and entertainment favorites such as “Chaku Uta Ranking” (Label Mobile), “Sponge Bob Mobile” (Viacom) and Disney Mobile Wave. A single channel typically runs up to 1MB, and is refreshed 1-3 times per week (some, like weather, are new daily).
Content channels can be set for push (maximum 3MB) or pull (maximum 1.5MB).
Once you’ve subscribed, all that’s necessary is to leave your phone switched on overnight; an onboard BREW application will grab any pull content you’ve signed up for and the programs will be waiting for off-line playback next morning.
Content providers, which use a mixture of 3GPP video and KDDI proprietary extension of the SMIL (Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language) broadcast language to create the downloads, can choose to set or limit frequency or number of playbacks.
Data is delivered via WIN”s flat-rate billing, so the file size is not an issue and the monthly subscription costs Y420.
Overall, it’s an intelligent and well-thought-out approach to making use of EV-DO’s extra bandwidth without swamping the network with over-eager data downloaders. In addition to the enhanced file size of EZ Movie (KDDI’s long-standing MPEG video clip and Flash content service) and Chaku Uta Full (full-track music downloads), there’s not that much else that needs EV-DO’s expanded pipe.
Short disclaimer: Today’s video program was actually recorded during CEATEC 2004, and while none of the details presented have changed much (there are now more content providers), it’s interesting to note that since our initial interview, the content line-up hasn’t expanded that much — from about 35 to 53.
I suspect KDDI are either (a) having trouble convincing many more providers to join up (there are at least 310 channels listed on the EZ Movie menu) or (b) they are not pushing it too strongly for fear of hurting bandwidth (or maybe both).
Furthermore, they may simply not be working that hard to expand “traditional” EZ contents as mobile digital TV and Felica come to KDDI handsets (in Apr 2006 and last month, respectively), allowing EZ content planners to focus on these new service categories. And CEATEC 2005 did show lots of cool KDDI, DoCoMo and Vodafone devices that will implement Felica and digital TV in the coming months. We’ll make sure we get images and a report out to you on those well before CEATEC 2006!
– Daniel Scuka
Note: To browse the KDDI/au mobile contents menu from a PC (in Japanese): http://www.duogate.co.jp/duogate/ez
Download a full presentation on EZ Channel tech and business model details (in English) here: http://it.sfc.keio.ac.jp/cpf/kddi.pdf