DoCoMo has just released it’s unaudited results [.PDF Here] for the full 2008 fiscal year, which closed on 31 March. While operating revenues were down 5.6% YoY – with operating expenses trimmed by 7.3% – the bottom line net income was still off 3.9% compared to 2007. The company has also announced a series of new initiatives, in several fields of interest, details after the below.
Customer Satisfaction Initiatives
1. Reduced charges for flat-rate data plans for phone users
DOCOMO phone users will pay lower basic charges for the flat-rate data plans “Pake-hodai double” and “Biz-hodai double.” Beginning May 1, the entry-level basic monthly charges for both plans will be reduced to ¥490 (incl. tax) from ¥1,029, enabling customers to save on data communication charges.
2. More free communication with members of group-discount plans
Beginning May 1, subscribers to the group-discount plans “Family Discount” or “Office Discount” no longer will be charged for receiving large-volume i-mode mails, such as those with video attachments or deco-mail™ formatting, from people covered under the same group contract.
3. New flat-rate-data plans for PC users
Two new flat-rate data communications plans for PC users, “Flat-rate Data Standard” and “Flat-rate Data Standard Value,” will begin July 1. In the case of two-year contracts, the basic monthly charges will start as low as ¥1,000 for Flat-rate Data Standard and ¥1,735 for Flat-rate Data Standard Value.
4. New after-care and expanded customer-loyalty services
The Mobile Phone Checking Service will be launched at docomo shops on July 1 to provide free basic after-care, including checkups, minor repairs and consulting to help customers maintain their mobile phones in the best possible condition. Further, DOCOMO Premier Club will offer members the option of receiving a free portable charger in addition to the ongoing battery-pack giveaway option as part of a customer-loyalty promotion.
5. New service counters in London and New York
DOCOMO will open service counters in London in May and New York in September to provide support to customers visiting these locations for leisure, business or study. DOCOMO already operates service counters in Japanese airports, as well as in Hawaii since 2005.
Corporate Social Responsibility Initiatives
1. Mobile Phone Safety Program DVD
Mobile Phone Safety Classes, a program DOCOMO launched in 2004 to dispatch instructors to schools and communities to talk about the responsible use of mobile phones, will begin providing DVDs (or VHS tapes) about basic phone manners, how spam mail works, etc. to about 33,000 elementary, middle and high schools nationwide. Nearly 1.5 million students have participated the program to date.
2. Enhanced mobile safety for minors
In response to Japan’s enactment of new legislation from April 1 to protect youths from harmful online sites, on the same day DOCOMO began applying the i-mode Filter service on a default basis to new i-mode subscribers under the age of 20 to restrict their access to such sites. DOCOMO already offers the Access Restriction service to enable parents or legal guardians to select their minors’ level of access to dating sites and other potentially harmful sites.
1. Upgrades to i-concier service
The i-concier service, which provides customers with highly personalized information and support, is being upgraded with GPS and location-based information. In addition to personalized traffic and weather updates, the service will newly provide coupons to restaurants and information about shopping in locations frequented by the user. In addition, the service will be further upgraded with information about favorite sports teams and musical artists. Subscriptions to the service exceeded one million as of April 11.
2. Launch of HSUPA
Beginning around June (to be fixed), packet-data uplinks using DOCOMO’s HSUPA (High-Speed Uplink Packet Access) service will increase in speed some 15-fold to a maximum 5.7 Mbps. With maximum downlink speeds of 7.2 Mbps already available, bi-directional data transfer speeds will be substantially upgraded in FOMA HIGH-SPEED areas.
In addition to the new initiatives, DOCOMO will continue to conduct a variety of initiatives in the fields of customer satisfaction and corporate social responsibility.
1. Prompt response to customer requests
Since October 2008, DOCOMO has been dispatching technicians into the field within 48 hours of setting up an appointment to inspect radio wave conditions in the customer’s area. Some 13,000 field checks were conducted between October 2008 and March 2009.
2. User trials for Disaster Message Board Service
The Disaster Message Board Service is a bilingual (Japanese and English) service that enables people to communicate during disasters by posting and checking messages on an electronic bulletin board. DOCOMO offers people opportunities to try out and familiarize themselves with the service on numerous occasions during the year.
3. Countermeasures for natural disasters
Beginning in December 2007, DOCOMO launched Area Mail™, an i-mode mail service that automatically sends users Earthquake Early Warnings issued by the Japan Meteorological Agency and disaster-related information issued by national and regional bodies. More than 18,000,000 DOCOMO subscribers were using mobile phones compatible with Area Mail as of March 2009.
Also, to help minimize disruptions in mobile communication during natural disasters, DOCOMO maintains a fleet of 52 vehicles with portable base stations, and another 65 vehicles with portable electricity generators and spare phone batteries for use by people in disaster-hit areas.
4. Sustainable environment initiatives
DOCOMO has been carrying out various programs to help prevent global warming, minimize emissions and utilize natural resources. To lower its use of electricity for mobile network equipment, DOCOMO opened the Tachikawa ICT Ecology Center in February 2009 to promote reduced CO2 emissions. The “docomo Woods” reforestation program, launched in 1999, will plant additional trees in every prefecture of Japan in the current fiscal year.
While that’s a significant amount of material to review, several points stand-out at 1st blush. The flat-rate price wars, especially considering the incoming MVNO plays, are well underway and the default addition of adult content filtering for the under 20 segment will turn some heads as well. Perhaps the most interesting points come under the so-called ‘Other Initiatives’ section regarding the i-concier service hitting 1M subscribers and HSUPA coming into effect by June.. wOOt!