V-Live vs. i-mode: Observations from Tokyo Big Sight
Tim Harrison’s speech was the highlight of Wireless Japan 2003 for many — an oasis of information in an otherwise dreary lineup of pat speeches by DoCoMo’s Tachikawa and KDDI’s Onodera. Harrison talked eloquently about the guiding principles that have let V-Live grow to 1.5 million, the lessons learned from Japan, and how their service is different from the domestically brilliant, and so far internationally dismal, performance of various i-modes.
How successful is Vodafone Live really? And how much has Vodafone learned from J-Phone? One thing we’d like to point out is that 1.5 million subscribers are just a drop in the bucket for Vodafone’s European audience. Vodafone has about a quarter of the UK market alone (over 13 million subscribers); about 23 million in Germany and 15 million in Italy. When all’s said and done, Vodafone Live has less than three percent of Vodafone’s 80 million European customer base.
Latest figures from UBS Warburg indicate that Vodafone Live’s base has risen to 1.75 million over the latest quarter. According to one source here very familiar with Vodafone’s European operation, adding 250,000 subs a month seems reasonable. So how is Vodafone going to build toward the 75 billion Euro market (by 2006) for contents that he predicts will be developing over the course of the decade…?
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Some media picked up on Tachikawa’s speech that DoCoMo plans to move FOMA onto High Speed Data [or Digital, depending on whom you talk to] Packet Access, or HSDPA, in 2005. When we hear more about FOMA-H, we’ll let you know because it’s W-CDMA’s version of 1X EDVO — but with 10Megs per second of speed. Tachikawa was talking about getting 2 million handsets out in something like 18-24 months, probably making DoCoMo — as far as we know — the first to deploy HSDPA.
We got a few shots of Sanyo’s “concept” 3G phones, which the sharper people in our audience know have been out for ages. The real point is Sanyo believes that OLED displays will be the way to go, with much better display and lower battery power demand. The 125-g phone we clipped is being tested with J-Phone and KDDI. But Sanyo was unprepared to talk (at least on camera) about the still-outstanding technical, patent, and integration issues.
We also got a quick demo of KDDI Labs’ new TV-mobile phone, currently the size of a half-brick — but which they promise they can get down to celly size in as little as six months. It does broadcast TV and can also do live chat through their CDMA 1x network… pretty cool! While technically they can launch with the held-held size version fairly soon, it looks more like 2005 before the business model for broadcasters is in place. Maybe by then they will have solved those nasty MPEG-4 licensing issues, sorted out the digital rights management problems, and better (read: smaller) hardware may be available on which to run smooth video.
Last, but certainly not least, we chat up Gartner Japan’s Mitsuyama-san, who gave us some of her take on what was hot (or not) about the conference. She also made an interesting point about the different billing model issues faced by V-Live and i-mode in the EU vs. Japan.
— Paul Kallender