Vodafone Japan Launches TV Phone Surprise
Flashback a few years when J-Phone stunned the competition, and started a global wireless trend, by rolling out their new camera phones; well they may have just done it again. J-Phone was officially renamed as Vodafone KK on Oct. 1st. We were on hand to see President and CEO Darryl E. Green announce the company’s strategy going forward. After his brief pep talk, and during the rather harsh question period from reporters on J-Phone’s recent performance, Green pulled out a shiny red metallic NEC handset. The cameras strobed and the room began to buzz as it became clear that Vodafone had scooped everyone yet again with Japan’s first TV-Phone, set to hit Tokyo streets just in time for New Years.
Last week’s press conference, conducted totally in Japanese, set the stage for what should become an interesting battle for market share between No. 2 carrier KDDI and the newly re-branded Vodafone K.K. After a long, cool summer, and surprisingly low new subscriptions compared to their competition, the bottom line is looking a lot like packet price wars combined with new cutting edge hardware and service offerings from the former J-Phone camp.
The NEC prototype on display is not actually the worlds first clam shell ketailoaded with a TV tuner, Samsung rolled out their SCH-X820model in June, which boasts access to free of charge local VHF/UHF channels. As of today, the complete NEC unit specs. and TVcontent partners on board have not been announced.
Excerpt from Paul Kallender’s Viewpoint:
Vodafone KK has been launched off the back of three terrible months, with the company gaining 74,800, 50,200 and 26,300 subscribers in July, August and September. Forget DoCoMo, let’s compare it to Au, with whom Vodafone KK appears to have lost its battle, perhaps temporarily, for second place: Au got 210,000; 199,900 and 178,300 in the same period. We’d like to note that Vodafone’s September increase was half that of one pessimistic estimate we’d read. The same report predicts that Vodafone will glean fewer than 500,000 3G subscribers by the end of next March. ARPU’s on the slide too, with figures March-June dropping 7,270: 7,050: 7,040 and 6,850 yen respectively. The company likes to point out that 71 percent of its customers are Sha-mail users and 87 percent are J-SKY (now V-Live) subscribers, but the figures suggest fewer pictures and downloads for the while.
Those watching our video program will know that Green dodged the 3G subscriber question eloquently in Japanese, after conceding that Vodafone would have ‘difficulty’ hitting the one million mark soon. It’s a familiar story, but it does appear that 3G growth will stall without a clear set of flagship handsets and services over next year, and until then the service is, to but it bluntly, dead over the airwaves.
The subtext to Green’s press conference was assuring the press that once the big old Vodafone jalopy gets into gear with a sorted out display cabinet of wares, it?s going to be thundering down the international wireless highway. While doing this, it’s taking on board the lessons provided by J-Phone to bring more than just NEC into the international market.
When it comes to phones, Vodafone will be able to match the pulling power of DoCoMo with Japanese makers and draw the best out of them and Nokia, Ericsson, Siemens and Motorolla in the international markets. When it comes to integrating services, WAP and Vodfone Live will be integrated. For browsers, the company is working on an Explorer update. When it comes to business applications Vodafone’s Wireless Office plans promise, according to Green, to bridge the gap between the phone and the PC.
— The Editors.