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US and Japan to Lead Mobile TV Market

SoftBank Establishes Mobile TV DivisionSoftBank announced that it has established a new company, Mobile Media Planning Corp., which aims to conduct technical research on MediaFLO and plan new services utilizing such technology. Developed by QUALCOMM, the system enables distribution of multichannel broadcast optimized for mobile communications, including Clipcast, and distribute digital terrestrial broadcasts to mobile terminals and other devices. This technology is considered as one of the three major technologies following satellite broadcast and 1Seg broadcast, and it enables real time broadcast of 20 channels on one TV channel portion of frequency band (6MHz). We interviewed MediaFlo’s Ali Zamari during the recent Wireless Japan trade-show in Tokyo.

Mobile Media Planning plans to provide digital-tv broadcast distribution services for mobile terminals and other devices utilizing such technology for the development of mobile communications business of the SOFTBANK Group. Also, Mobile Media Planning will work on the study of technical potential of MediaFLO, by participating in the activities organized by external parties such as the VHF/UHF-band efficient use working group in Information and Communications Council, which discusses the proposal of multimedia broadcast technology including MediaFLO, and FLO Forum where supporting enterprises from around the world, such as QUALCOMM, participate.

Welcome to Japan's Wireless Frontier

Welcome to Japan's Wireless FrontierCurrently in it’s 11th year, Wireless Japan is evolving from Japan’s largest wireless & Mobile network technologies and services trade show into one of the largest in Asia. This event has become the hub of wireless dedicated gatherings in Asia with over 150 exhibitors and 30,000 attendees expected. Running July 19 – 21 at the space-age Tokyo BigSite exhibition center the annual event is attended, and endorsed, by most of the major players in mobile.

WWJ was on the scene, as usual, we have video interviews with Qualcomm about their new MediaFlo digital tv efforts and a hands-on demo with HTC’s new smartphone coming soon from DoCoMo. We also attended the Mobile Entertainment Forum session this afternoon and will have some of the presentations from that coming online as well. Meanwhile here’s a quick peek at some of the sights and sounds from the show floor today and links to our coverage from the event in years past.

Motorola Razr, Designer Phones in DoCoMo 3G Summer 7-Series

Motorola Razr, Designer Phones in DoCoMo 3G Summer 7-SeriesDoCoMo today announced six summer 3G handsets, including ‘7-Series’ models from US maker Motorola, Sharp, NEC, Panasonic and Mitsubishi. The Japan-made models include three ‘designer’ phones, with ultracool shapes and colours conceived by noted Japanese design personalities, while Motorola joins the show with their M702iS and M702iG — the latter evidently based on the newest version of the widely popular ‘RAZR’ series, the Razr V3X.

The company unveiled the phones at a flashy press event held at the Harajuku Quest event space in central Tokyo. The three designer models, from Mitsubishi, Panasonic and NEC, offer a range of trendy colors including ‘lilac mirage’ and ’round coral’, and feature square, oval and bevel shapes based on the clam-shell form factor. DoCoMo’s choice of outside designers to create custom models is neither the first for the carrier nor for Japan and continues a popular (and lucrative) trend long developed by KDDI and Vodafone.

All phones unveiled today include, in varying mixes, the carrier’s stripped-down ‘3G-lite’ voice and data services, including roaming, ‘Chaku-moji’ (which lets the caller enter a short message that will appear on the receiver’s phone as it rings), network phonebook backup, network lock-out of a lost phone, Deco-mail (HTML mail), i-Channel and music playback. But while the carrier presented the phones as the unified ‘7-Series’, there are significant differences between the domestic and US models. The Motorolas fail to provide all of the signature lite FOMA services (lost phone lockout, PushTalk, removable memory) but they do roam, while the Japanese models don’t roam.

DoCoMo's Mobile Credit Card Launch

DoCoMo's Mobile Credit Card LaunchDCMX: Is it a phone that can buy stuff or a credit card that can make calls? NTT DoCoMo is hoping that millions of spend-free consumers won’t know or care about the distinction and will simply use the new ‘DCMX’ credit-card phone for, well, pretty much everything. For small, daily purchases — like a six-pack and a take-out bento lunch — use the phone’s e-money FeliCa chip with no authentication required; for larger buys (a cool Louis Vuitton bag from the Omotesando boutique), use the DCMX credit-card function with a swipe and a PIN code; later, the phone will eyeball you for biometric authorization. “We wish to combine telecoms with financial services,” says DoCoMo’s Mr i-mode, Takeshi Natsuno, in today’s video program — and if there’s a cellco anywhere in the world that can afford the value-chain coordination costs to deploy a workable phone/credit card combo, it has to be NTT DoCoMo.DCMX is a logical progression from the carrier’s popular ‘o-saifu keitai’ IC-chip handsets that can store value onboard for small, daily purchases, and the launch announcement confirms DoCoMo’s strategic course aiming squarely at making the network-connected phone the payment method of choice for millions of Japanese. Maybe one day something this useful will be offered by carriers elsewhere?

Strategic Planning for Successful International Expansion

Strategic Planning for Successful International ExpansionA long-time friend of WWJ, Walter Adamson, founder and principal at Digital Investor, sat down with us to share his latest presentation, “Strategic Planning for Successful International Expansion: Lessons Learned from Asia’s Failed Experiences,” a primer on the mistakes that mobile content companies have made while trying to expand across borders, with a focus on Japan and Australia. In the Japanese case, some have succeeded, but many others have not and Walter has provided a clear outline of common mistakes.

Walter attributes failure in many cases to unsophisticated management approaches and suggests that a solution can be found from addressing what he calls the ‘Top Six Sins’ — Strategic Intent, Underestimated Risk, Lack of Linkage (between strategy and action), Poor Balance, Poor Project Reviews and Poor Alignment (between strategy and structure). WWJ thinks Walter’s view may just be valuable to mobile companies anywhere considering a leap into someone else’s market.

Japan Launches Digital TV for Mobile Phones

Japan Launches Digital TV for Mobile PhonesNHK and five commercial TV broadcasters held a splashy launch party in Tokyo’s central Shinjuku train station on Saturday afternoon, announcing the official start of terrestrial ‘One-Seg’ broadcast services. The carriers have lined up accordingly: NTT DoCoMo has partnered with Nippon Television and Fuji Television, while KDDI has forged a partnership with TV Asahi.

The new digital tuner-enabled handsets, coming from Panasonic, Hitachi and Sanyo, should deliver up to three hours of TV viewing time by processing and decoding only the requested channel — as opposed to current analog units which run only about an hour and eat more juice as they decode all incoming broadcast channels. Vodafone’s 905SH from Sharp is rumoured to be available just in time for the World Cup in June.

WWJ has been covering this story since the spring of 2004 when early prototype handsets were first introduced at an NHK open-house event.

3D Moji Mail – Icing on the Cake

3D Moji Mail - Icing on the CakeHere’s a quick video clip we shot at the Vodafone press conference when they introduced the new V804SS handset by Samsung — the first Samsung handset in Japan — going on sale here finally today. It has a few up-close examples of the company’s new dynamic email application, “Deru Moji” 3D Pictogram Display with pop-up animations, that we thought were pretty interesting.

While the functionality is only interoperable between a few handsets so far, this is a mobile mail nation and ‘cool factor’ really does count. Look for more discussion online about this next-gen offering — centered on when will it hit EU and US markets. Remember you saw it here first on WWJ!

Vodafone Japan's Final Media Briefing: Out with a Whimper

Vodafone Japan’s Final Media Briefing: Out with a WhimperFor Vodafone Japan, the end came not with a bang, but with a whimper. When we arrived at last Monday’s press event – the final one, it turned out, before news of the Japan sell-out hit the Web – the smell of pending doom hung in the air. Ironically, the media briefing bore an optimistic title: the “Future Direction of Product & Service Development.” It was also surprising to see that President Bill Morrow and Chairman Tsuda-san would attend for the 3G roadmap briefing to be given by former J-Phone super-star Ohta-san; WWJ has never seen three Vodafone Big Guys in one room together for a media briefing (perhaps there is safety in numbers)? But when the talk from all three turned out vague and totally avoided any mention of new MVNO’s signing up to resell Vodafone 3G capacity — widely considered to be one of Big Red’s few viable options in Japan — we suspected something was up.

And when we learned that a $49 bn write-off had been announced by London on the same day, it was obvious that the clock had already started ticking down for the carrier’s long-speculated Japan exit. Thus ended, after some five years of trying, what could have been one of the most brilliant tie-ups between a global brand name and world-leading Japanese mobile know-how.

3G Mobile Future: Exclusive Interview with Tomi Ahonen

3G Mobile Future: Exclusive Interview with Tomi AhonenTomi Ahonen is a smart guy who’s done a lot of observing and thinking about the 3G future. He reports that planet Earth has 2 bn mobile phones, with more phones in use than cars, credit cards or televisions, and that advertisers, businesses and governments are all trying to understand how the mobile future will download. For a glimpse into the future, Tomi was in Tokyo last month for the 3G Mobile World Forum 2006 where he observed that Japan already has the handsets, the networks and users who have migrated to 3G, while “the rest of the world is just starting to understand and discover this opportunity.”

He points out that in Japan, roughly 30 percent of all mobiles are 3G phones, compared to the UK, where it’s only 8 percent. “We have a long way to go to catch up.” WWJ’s Lawrence Cosh-Ishii caught up with Tomi for a tightly-focused interview covering 3G, 3.5G, consumer service definition, key technologies and how marketing and advertising are starting to recognize the potential of mobile.

Bluetooth Cell-Phone Santa Brings Seasons Greetings!

Bluetooth Cell-Phone Santa Brings Seasons Greetings!Here’s a fun web video for everyone to enjoy from all of us here at Wireless Watch Japan! We stopped by KDDI’s Designing Studio in Harajuku yesterday afternoon with our long list of groovy gadgets we wanna have for Christmas and to sit on their robot Santa’s knee. As it turns out, maybe we’re getting a bit too big for that — but it was fun anyway! Dressed up for the holidays, this robo Santa-san unit made a splash during the 2005 International Robot Exhibition held recently at Tokyo BigSite. According to Designing Studio’s Manager Natsuko Kimura, the robo Santa was created by KDDI’s partner company I Bee K.K., which develops products based on Bluetooth technology. While we were there, it seemed like a good idea to send best wishes to our faithful WWJ visitors, recorded from under KDDI’s three-story tall Christmas tree.