What's Being Switched On in Japan's Wireless Biz
What's Being Switched On in Japan's Wireless Biz

What's Being Switched On in Japan's Wireless Biz

What's Being Switched On in Japan's Wireless Biz

If any of you begin to note a slightly limey tone to future Viewpoints, it’s because the WWJ team has a new member, moi – Paul Kallender, as Tokyo correspondent. Take a look at my my bio. below and you will see that I am fully capable of deploying my creative weapons of article construction well within 45 minutes! I’ll be filing weekly with my take on the trends animating Japan’s mobile biz, as well as offering insight you can’t get from our competitors -most of whom either don’t live in Japan or are not actually independent journalists. I can’t follow in ex-editor-in-chief Daniel Scuka’s footsteps (partly because he’s in Germany and I’m in Japan), but I do hope you’ll bear with meas I attempt in my own way to “rip the faceplate” off Japan’s wireless industry. Given my Aikido background, I will be doing my best to at least throw some of the PR pap journalists have to rewrite into the digital dustbin of history. In short, come to WWJ for the stuff you can’t get elsewhere.

I’d also like to point out that WWJ’s journalistic pedigree is about as solid as it gets. In other words, myself, John Alderman, and the other WWJ creatives are real journalists. There are other sources of wireless coverage out of Tokyo, but the writers are industry executives whose points of view are hardly disinterested and whose livelihoods depend on them not offending (or even worse rewarding) their customers, partners, or contractors.

And please don’t hesitate to share with us your own tips, information, insight, comments, and – if at all possible – subscriptions. We want you,and we are unashamedly wanting a little of your company’s cash too.

Gartner Predicts conference, July 3rd;
We went, we saw, and we interviewed. The conference was a five-section all-day event covering worldwide telecom trends and what’s(maybe) going to happen in Japan; the conference featured Dean Eyers, group vice president and worldwide director, telecommunications, as well as homegrown expert and principal analyst Nahoko Mitsuyama.

Note that we didn’t catch Gartner’s top analysts during breaks between the (generally interesting) presentations: we corralled them downstairs afterwards where we could fire off the questions we really wanted to ask. Don’t miss this WWJ video interview with Gartner’s Dean Eyers, and look forward to see our chat with Nahoko Mitsuyama at the Wireless ’03 show.

Without further ado, here is a wrap of some of the more interesting points that came out of the day.

Gartner Predicts: They certainly did! Over four sessions some of Gartner’s best and brightest summed up their wisdom for the future of telecoms. I’ll focus on analysts Kenshi Tazaki and Nahoko Mitsuyama; Tazaki believes public WLAN access sites will grow from about 4,000 hotspots today to about 12,000 in 2007. The major buildout to 10,000 will be completed in 2005, with community hotspots and retail outlets comprising up to 8,000 of the access sites between them. In the five years from 2002-07, Japan’s WLAN services market will grow from almost nothing to 90 billion yen.

Ironically, WLAN won’t become a “big” market because 3G services – with their finely tuned, packet-based business models – will finally be providing all the bandwidth mobile surfers want (for the limited user-interface functionality you can cram into a celly).

No doubt Tazaki – source of the predictions above – has a point. Why would NTT DoCoMo for one, after spending a trillion-plus yen on FOMA and squeezing functionality kicking and screaming from handset makers, suddenly want to yet again re-chip terminals with WLAN for coffee-drinking salarymen? OK, we know slot and surf cards – AKA mobile gambling – are in the cards as well – which raises the question: where’s the money in WLAN and when and how will convergence happen?

Convergence, convergence… Collison!
(… adapted from Base Station “Fiddler on the Roof”).

Hints of the month:

Back in May KDDI said it would start a “trial” 802.11b WLAN service using a one-time ID and password sent to cellys via the EZweb platform at New Chitose Airport, Kansai International Airport, and Miyazaki Airport (We wonder why not Haneda in central Tokyo? – Ed.) as well as in the lobbies of the Tokyo Dome Hotel and Century Hyatt; Japan Telecom and JR East also said they’d start a similar trial service (using a one-time ID and password) from the middle of May on the J-Sky Internet connection service.

On July 4, in a sort of “Independence from FOMA Day,” DoCoMo rolled out its Panasonic Compact Flash Free2 PWL data communication card which supports both PHS and 802.11b. Sadly, PHS, as most of you know, chugs along at 64K (the new data card is also compatible with laptops running Win XP, 2000, ME, 98and CE2.0). Does this mean that the dasai (terminally unfashionable) PHS is staging a comeback? There must be demand from business users, and how about those corporate WLANs tossed in the mix?

This week’s Wireless ’03 Event at Tokyo Big Sight;
Japan 2003, Sony, Cisco, and Extreme Networks (among others) were reporting on their WLAN strategies. We’ll have the wrap coming soon. Other notables from that event include a peek at Sanyo’s OLED 3G future concept models, a sit-down chat with Tim Harrison, Business Development and Content Manager from Vodafone in London, and peek-a-boo demo of KDDI’s TV-Phone.. plus all the eye-candy you’ve come to expect in our reports from Japan wireless industry trade shows.. 😉

And if Japan’s plethora of multi-mode terminals, roaming options, billing plans, and network standards have you somewhat confused, relax. NTT DoCoMo, NEC, and a some 104 corporate camp followers have just established the Mobile Computing Promotion Consortium. The MCPC has vowed to sort out the jumble of operator connection formats, redundant fees, roaming rules and – last but not least – encryption systems by the end of 2004.

We’ll be Watching because “We’rrrrre Back” – And Ready to Rumble..!!!

— Paul Kallender

Paul KallenderPaul Kallender’s second tour in Tokyo started in 2001 when he returned from New York as the Electronic Engineering Times’ Tokyo correspondent covering semiconductors, memory, and basic research. Resuming his freelance career in March 2002, Kallender went back to his first love, covering Japan’s space industry for www.space.com, and things that go bang in the night for Defense News. He was interviewed by CNBC and Marketplace for his views on Japan’s space program, and he also delves into nanotechnology in his role at www.smalltimes.com as Tokyo correspondent. This is Paul’s second stint at wireless coverage after he contributed to www.lightreading.com and www.unstrung.com last year. Having written for Wired Japan, Forbes Global Online and a knapsack of local magazines, Paul, a native of London, enjoys throwing questions almost as much as people (which he does after hours on the karate dojo). He has journalist weapons, such as The Horgan Prize for Excellence in Science Writing (awarded by Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism) and a gong from the American Society of Business Publication Editors, stuffed in his hakama, although he is prepared to admit that the sword can be mightier than the pen.