Willcom Sees Strong Initial Sales

Willcom Sees Strong Initial Sales“Despite the high prices, there were huge line-ups waiting to buy the new Willcom PHSes,” said my Kiwi pal in an email last night. It looks like some of Willcom’s PHS phones appear to be selling well on the strength of flat-rate voice and data and handsets that are at least comparable to the high-end 3G cellular models from the Big Three carriers. Is this a hint of price destruction to come when the new licensees jump into the market in 2006?

“It normally takes about 20 minutes to get a new phone, but the wait for the new Willcom models on the first day of sales was over an hour and a half. A day or two later and the long lines have vanished,” added Keith Wilkinson, a long-time Japan hand and a keen watcher of all things electronic.

He was referring to the WX300K, WX310K and WX310SA, from Kyocera and Sanyo, as initially reported by WWJ in October, the first in a new series of PHS models. PHS is the shorter-range, non-cellular standard that has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity due to lower costs of usage and flat-rate pricing. According to Willcom, phones could be reserved starting on 11 November, and became or will become available in shops on the 18th (WX300K, silver and ochre), the 25th (WX310K, silver & pink; WX310SA, silver & red) and the 30th (WX310K, other color).

Shaking Up Japanese Telecom

Sachio Semmoto likes nothing more than seizing an opportunity when he spots it. Six years ago, the former electrical engineer thought he could crack open Japan’s fossilized telecom sector by connecting businesses to unused lines owned by NTT. Now, Semmoto is smelling opportunity again. On November 10, Japan’s communications ministry granted eAccess one of three new cellular licenses, opening the market to the country’s first new entrants in a dozen years.

Japan Approves Three New Groups for 3G

Japan Approves Three New 3G CarriersBack in 1999, when I was editing Computing Japan magazine, we ran an article entitled “Third Generation Mobile: Three Groups for 3G” looking at the three groups — NTT DoCoMo, IDO-DDI (later, with KDD, KDDI) and IMT-2000 Planning Corp. (later J-Phone) — lining up for a new license. The prediction was that “success for the 3G business depends on the digital content.” Now, 7 years later, three new hopefuls are lining up in a far more mature market, and not only content but also terminals, churn, number portability and voice versus data will be significant factors.

On November 10, Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications said it would grant three new carriers licenses to operate in the 1.7 and 2 GHz bands; BB Mobile of Softbank Corp. and e-mobile of eAccess Ltd. will offer services based on W-CDMA technology while IPMobile Inc. will offer Japan’s first TD-CDMA-based services. The three are expected to launch later in 2006.

The three newcomers are entering a highly competitive market dominated by three existing incumbents: NTT DoCoMo Inc., KDDI Corp. and Vodafone K.K., which reported a collective 89.4 million subscribers as of October 31. The new players are expected to expand the variety of wireless services and pricing levels available, providing more choice and lowering costs — not least of all for terminals — according to one ministry quotation.

Japan Allocates 2-GHz Spectrum for TD-CDMA

Last week, the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications announced that Japan’s 2010 – 2025 MHz spectrum would be allocated solely to IMT-2000 TDD technologies. This paves the way for broadband wireless networks using UMTS TDD, also known as TD-CDMA in Japan; the first commercially deployed IMT-2000 technology for unpaired spectrum. Optimized for high-speed data, UMTS TDD is already used by operators and manufacturers worldwide and has emerged as a leading standard for Broadband Wireless Access.