WPC Expo: FOMA, Telematics and Wristomo
Wireless Watch Japan was on hand for FOMA’s first international video call in Sept. at the WPC 2003 event. After the keynote introduction from Hutchison’s CEO Bob Fuller, and the World Call demo., we chatted with DoCoMo’s Mariko Hanaoka about their new service. We also took a ride on the upcoming telematics platform in a quick interview with Hidenori Obara of DoCoMo’s ITS Business Promotion Office, and heard that Seiko will add a color display, but not a camera function, to its next generation of the Wristomo PHS phone. Perhaps someday DoCoMo will bundle all three services together…!! In a seperate development we got a peek at Panasonic’s killer app. for camera phones everywhere.
DoCoMo’s main stage presentation was for its grandly-named World Call service, which is basically M-Stage on FOMA at 72 yen per 10 seconds (about $3.70 a minute) and, courtesy of circuit switching, at 64k, to Hutchison 3G UK’s 155,000 and not growing- as it would seem so far- community.
M-Stage in action was impressive, with DoCoMo people in Hiroshima, Sapporo, Piccadilly Circus (London) and Tokyo chatting to each other. Time delay is noticeable; we figured it was approaching a second as the packets shunted themselves through the FOMA net, onto circuit switching and off into Hutchinson land. But we could pick out who was saying what. The premium over voice is high (voice is 40 yen/ 10s) so we don’t believe for a moment that Mariko is going to call her friends Keiko, Masami and Kenji and show them the Changing of the Guard outside Buckingham Palace, unless Mum is paying. Even Japanese tourists aren’t that rich.
But for business, the bottom line is that with a little patience factored in, mobile-to-mobile real-time video conferencing is doable. World Call also of course can send data LAN to LAN at the same price.
FOMA is all dressed up and ready to roam. Too bad the partners haven’t turned up to the dance yet. Hutchison, which is majority controlled by Hong Kong’s Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. (with DoCoMo a 20 percent stakeholder) is having its own problems growing subscribers, an issue that DoCoMo declined to touch on. Hutchison just reported half-year losses of $500 million. You’ll see Hutchison CEO Bob Fuller put his own spin on the World Call deal. He looked thankful, and that’s all we’ll say on that.
The important thing for us was that while KDDI, Vodafone and DoCoMo come up with media finger food to demonstrate international connectivity with their nascent 3G services, here, with World Call, is the real thing in operation. Service expansion will proceed along the Hutchinson route to Austria, Sweden, Australia, Italy and, according to Takashi Tokita, DoCoMo’s director of International Roaming and Dialing Services, talks are underway with Hutchison Whampoa move the service to, surprise, Hong Kong, widening the potential chunk of users to about 550,000 outside Japan right now.
Is DoCoMo going to come to a FOMA-V-Live gentlemen’s agreement for interconnectivity? You bet. Are they talking? We guess they are. In the FOMA vs. Global Passport play, a rising stream of packet data will raise all boats.
— The Editors.