The September presser with NTT DoCoMo’s President Nakamura contained some interesting bits of info on 3G coverage; WWJ subscribers can log in and listen to the entire event on MP3 audio (see today’s Viewpoint).
Yes, I know that there has been an ongoing drumbeat in the media reporting spotty coverage for FOMA users. But Nakamura devoted a lot of time to explaining their ongoing and upcoming base station and 3G FOMA network coverage plans, emphasizing that the carrier would boost coverage at “JR stations, universities, junior colleges and high schools.”
I guess it must really be a problem for them, and any problem is a **real** problem in view of the looming mobile number portability (MNP) migration. “This fiscal year, we plan to add 10,800 outdoor and 3,000 indoor base stations. So far, we are over 50 percent [of this target] at this time, so we are almost in line with our plan,” he said.
He also said that DoCoMo have recently run newspaper advertisements asking FOMA-using mobilers to let them know where their phones won’t work. So far, DoCoMo have installed new 3G base stations in about 60 percent of the reported shadow areas, according to Nakamura, based on 7,000 suggestions.
He also talked about HSDPA:
“At the end of August, 31 August, we launched HSDPA. We made a very good start. We sold 33,000 handsets in one month, and given that the service is available only in the central Tokyo 23 Wards area, this is positive. By the end of October, we will expand HSDPA to all cities nationwide and to the areas within Route 16. HSDPA offers ten times faster downloads then 3G speed, so customers appreciate accessing i-mode more smoothly. It is much more convenient.”
(Route 16 is a major east-west roadway crossing Tokyo and heading West into Kanagawa Prefecture.)
On the topic of MNP, he said that DoCoMo started accepting pre-requests to leave for another carrier on 10 September. “So far, things have been calm and quiet.” One Nikkei reporter asked him for more details and he basically said, Well, we haven’t seen line ups outside the shops.
However, later, he did say that the churn rate for August was 0.60 – “very low” – but that they are planning for an overall churn rate of 0.85 for the fiscal year, indicating they expect MNP to have at least some effect.
Time will tell.
There were also good stats on handsets and e-Wallet services:
Handsets: They plan to launch the new, high-end 903i-series in time for year-end sales. By the end of fiscal 2006 (March 2007), they will have launched 50 new models, making the year “a record.”
e-Wallets: The user base for Felica-enabled phones was 15.5 mn at end-August. As of end September, there were 800,000 DCMX phone credit-card users (DCMX started in April), and the number is “growing steadily.” He also confirmed the news that DoCoMo are working with Suica, JCB Quicpay, Edy and the convenience chains to establish a common, standard reader/writer infrastructure. “We will all establish common reader/writer machines by next year. Lawson, etc., will introduce the reader/writer terminals in all outlets in the future.”
Overall, there are lots of good points in the audio file, and it’s well worth a lunch hour at your desk.
Mobile Intelligence Japan (MIJ), 12-17 November: Please note that MIJ is now in motion for Sunday-Friday, 12-17 November, including Mobile Monday on the 13th and a full week of intense sessions with some of the best and brightest people and companies animating Japan’s mobile scene. We are working on the agenda now, and have already received expressions of interest or registrations from five keen mobile professionals (located in China, Europe, etc.).
If you’d like more details, including a sample agenda, outline of companies to be visited, the executive summary (which includes pricing) and the registration form, please access: http://www.mobileintelligence.jp.
Have a great weekend!