Currently, increased competition and stagnating economies have helped drive down end-user prices and voice service has become a commodity. While call minutes are increasing, ARPU is failing to keep pace with growing costs and shrinking margins. The 3G business case says that every incremental dollar spent on the network must produce a return on investment almost overnight. In the Asia-Pacific, Pyramid Research says 3G mobile subscribers will jump from 21 million in 2002 to 162 million in 2008.
A quarter of all mobile-phone users in Japan are expected to switch to a 3G service by March 2005. Analysts say DoCoMo, Japan’s largest wireless carrier, could add a million customers a month in 2004, once improved phones are released. Meanwhile, DoCoMo’s rivals, KDDI and Vodafone KK, are also expanding, leading executives to predict that 2004 will be the year of 3G in Japan. “If 3G is validated here, a lot of carriers and suppliers will point to Japan as a success,” said Mark Berman, an analyst at Credit Suisse First Boston in Tokyo. “This could touch off a 3G rally” worldwide.
According to recent reports here, Japan’s National Police Agency is planning to carry out a major revision of Japan’s Road Traffic Law next year that will toughen restrictions on mobile phone use while driving. As the law now stands, drivers in Japan are already prohibited from using mobile phones when behind the wheel, but police are only allowed to penalize those who are a threat to others. According to Kyodo news, the NPA wants to fine drivers up to 50,000 yen ($465/ 375 euro) if they use their phones to talk or send e-mail while driving… even if they pose no danger to other vehicles or people.
Japan’s second biggest mobile phone maker Panasonic has said that it will launch an IP mobile phone with a wireless LAN function in early 2004. Mikio Mizutani, Panasonic’s EVP has drawn up a company strategy to boost the Matsushita Electric Industrial subsidiary’s IP business strategy for next year.
From Monday, Seoulites can enjoy W-CDMA services at a similar rate to the current 2G phones. In an effort to build awareness of 3G phones, the private and public sectors are taking part in various incentives. SK Telecom’s subscription fee is 50,000 won, and it will collect 20 won for 10-second voice calls in addition to 14,000 won in basic monthly charges. SK will offer video call services for free in March, but will charge a monthly fee to be fixed later.
NEC Corp. is stepping up design and development of advanced cellular telephones with the formation of a joint venture with a Chinese technology company. The Tokyo-based company will take a 30 percent stake in Step Technologies (Beijing) Co. Ltd. with China’s TechFaith Holding Ltd. owning the remaining 70 percent. The company has been capitalized at 50 million renminbi ($6 million).
NEC has begun marketing “MM GATE,” a software tool that converts image data to formats supported by a wide variety of mobile devices, including cellphones, car navigation systems, and PDAs. Ideally suited for use by mobile content providers, the new software automatically identifies the types of mobile terminal to which an image should be sent, and adjusts the format, size, and resolution of the picture, enabling content providers to transmit the optimized image of a single picture to various types of devices.
Toshiba Corp and Fujitsu Ltd each have developed a new mobile phone with connectivity based on “Bluetooth,” a technology specification for short-range radio links, and received the Bluetooth logo certification needed for their sales of the phones. Their movement is believed to be directed at the Japanese market. There are not many Bluetooth-enabled cell phones in the Japanese market — Sony Corp launched the “C413S” in 2001 and Sharp Corp already offers a PDA terminal and a PHS terminal based on Bluetooth.
Signaling its seriousness to get its HSDPA (high-speed downlink packet access) network and concomitant mobile/smart phones up and transmitting in 2005, NTT DoCoMo said today that it is plowing 37 billion yen ($343.8 million) into 5 Japanese handset and network builders AND Motorola Japan Inc. What is immediately surprising about this move is that once again, as with yesterday’s media extravaganza on the new 900i phones, long-term handset partners Toshiba, and handset maker and major infrastructure builder Sony Ericsson are both missing. But it now looks like DoCoMo feels its time to start really kicking in the efficiencies to differentiate itself from KDDI’s WIN service both in terms of performance and, more critically, to faster recoup the considerable investment the company has made in 3G as it probably gears up for a packet price war with KDDI and Vodafone KK. And then, there is the leveraging of Motorola’s Linux links too!
NTT DoCoMo, Inc. and its eight regionalsubsidiaries today unveiled the FOMA 900i series, the most advanced-ever 3G FOMA i-mode mobile phones, featuring a Macromedia Flash-equipped browser, HTML e-mailand avatar-capable videophone. Compared with the original series of FOMA phones, 900imodels offer three times longer standby and weigh 20 percent less. The 900i series will boast the first 3G phones equipped with a Macromedia Flash browserfor the enjoyment of rich content enhanced with highly fluid animation. Flash applicationsof up to 100K are possible, compared with 20K in 2G mova 505i series. The new serieswill also handle richer, more sophisticated online games. Java-based i-appli applications offer a 400K scratch pad and have a maximum capacity of 100K forcontent/archiving, compared with 200K and 30K in existing models.