Report from J-Phone/Vodafone's 3G Launch
On December 3, J-Phone Co., Ltd. held a press conference in Tokyo to announce the launch of a new third-generation (3G) wireless network under the “Vodafone Global Standard” service name. “SMS is a form of data roaming and we also have packet roaming” said J-Phone president Darryl E. Green at last week’s 3G launch, adding, “It’s not as rich as it could be, but we’re working on many things.” Watch this exclusive report from the Tokyo event, including one-on-one interviews with Green and CTO John Thompson and highlights of 3G technology demos.
Comments from Wireless Watch Japan Editor-in-Chief Daniel Scuka:
The network, to begin service on December 20, will be Japan’s third 3G network, and is expected to offer subscribers significantly enhanced roaming capabilities using dual-mode handsets and transferable Universal Subscriber Identity Module (“USIM”) cards.
A USIM card is a “smart card” embossed with digital circuitry that contains a customer’s telephone number and other personal information.
J-Phone’s new network will operate on the W-CDMA cellular standard, also used by competitor NTT DoCoMo Co., Ltd., (and launched in October 2001). Japan’s other 3G system is the CDMA2000 1X network operated by KDDI Corp. and launched in April 2002. As of November 30, NTT DoCoMo had 149,000 3G subscribers, while KDDI had 3,897,700.
At the splashy launch, J-Phone said its “Global Standard” roaming services will provide both in- and out-roaming since its 3G network is based on protocols from the 3GPP (Third-Generation Partnership Project) international standards body.
More than 100 media representatives and industry analysts attended the conference, and the presentations and technology demonstrations lasted over two hours.
Demonstrations included a roaming call from J-Phone Co., Ltd., parent Vodafone Group Plc HQ in the UK (projected onscreen via video-conference link), receipt of a Japanese-language SMS [short messaging service] message from the UK, and receipt of a picture mail from the UK. There was also a 3G video conference call to a J-Phone office in southern Japan. One streaming download demonstration using what appeared to be a Compaq PDA didn’t work, evidently due to network problems.
The company said that, as of January 2003, 3G service would be available in the Tokyo metropolitan area as well as major cities and towns nationwide, totaling some “865 cities, wards, towns, and villages” to cover approximately 71.1% of the population. Voice out-roaming will be available in approximately 63 countries and regions (also as of January 2003), including Canada, Mexico, China, Ireland, and Holland. Subscribers will also be able to send and receive SMS messages while abroad.
When asked about data roaming to go along with the new network’s voice roaming capabilities, J-Phone president Darryl Green stated, “SMS is a form of data roaming and we also have packet roaming as well, although it’s not in all of the countries. Obviously this is something that we’re going to continue to improve. We really want to have all of our customers take any service they enjoy in Japan or in Europe today and use it in any country freely. So to start off it’s not as rich as it could be, but we’re working on many things that will quickly [sur]pass what we have today.”
The company also unveiled three new handsets, from NEC, Sanyo, and Nokia. The NEC and Nokia models are dual-mode models that will work on both new 3G and current GSM-standard networks. Battery life on J-Phone’s handsets, considered to be a major factor in the poor subscriber growth on NTT DoCoMo’s 3G network to date, will be 50-120 hours in 3G mode and over double that in GSM mode.