This article by the Asahi Shimbun, stating that KDDI will launch services on Sprint Nextels network, has created alot of buzz across the web in the last 24hrs. According to that story the company “… has obtained a business license to serve as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) in 49 of the 50 U.S. states”. While of course it makes perfect sense to us for KDDI to consider how they might port the lessons learned here into other developing markets, the details provided from this original source raised more questions than they answered. The Asahi quotes un-named officials, no announcement appears on either of the carriers websites, saying that “KDDI Mobile” will begin offering full-scale services in the U.S. by mid-April.
However, one ‘confusing’ comment in that piece states:
Because of differences in technologies used by the countries, KDDI’s new service will not offer au-brand handsets.
Handsets used for Sprint Nextel services, such as those of Sanyo Electric Co. and South Korea’s LG group, will be employed instead.
Both KDDI and Sprint are both running Qualcomm CDMA1x and EVDO networks so that logic doesn’t seem to make much sense. We could easily see the value in providing a niche service offering for ex-pats, and friendly roaming for tourists, and certainly AU has plenty of content partners that would be happy to tag along for the ride. The company continues to lead the domestic market and has plenty of experience when it comes to rolling-out advanced services, such as GPS and full music downloads, and it was the pioneer carrier to start flat-rate data billing packages as well. The current radio silence so far from both operators “might” suggest that something’s going on there, it should be interesting to see how this story develops going forward, we’ll be watching!
Update: Well we stand corrected KDDI Mobile FAQ. They’ll need to offer some better handsets!