WW-172 -- Mr i-mode moves on and EMOBILE starts voice services

Japan Inc Magazine Presents:


The Latest News From The Wireless Industry In Japan

Issue No. 172 Monday February 31, 2008
Subscribers: 9467


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Mr i-mode moves on

Takeshi Natsuno one of the people behind the introduction of
i-mode will leave NTT DoCoMo in April, according to leading
business newspaper the Nihon Keizai Shinbun on March 28.
Together with Mari Matsunaga and Keiichi Enoki, he pioneered
the phone browsing and revenue sharing concept with content
providers in 1998. Natsuno was also the driving force behind
the introduction of i-mode overseas. While it is easy to say
that i-mode failed abroad, Natsuno and his team deserve all
credits for their work – today almost 88 million Japanese pay
for phone browsing and email services. Many overseas carriers
and service providers have used i-mode as an inspiration for
their own business.

EMOBILE starts voice services

Mobile broadband service provider, EMOBILE commenced their voice
services on March 28. EMOBILE’s subscription models are easy to
understand. Monthly basic fees are free of charge, but phone
calls to mobile phones, PHS and fixed-lines are expensive –
18.9 yen per 30 seconds. Paying an optional 980 yen per month
will make phone calls cheaper – 5.25 yen to fixed-lines and 9.45
yen to mobile phones. The contract term is for a minimum of two
years. Cancelling your contract within this term comes at a
hefty penalty – after 6 months you pay 38,000 yen and 12 months
26,000 yen.

Two handsets are launched: a PDA-type phone from HTC with
Windows Mobile and a clam-shell model from Toshiba based on
a SoftBank model. Without subsidy, the PDA costs 67,980 yen and
clam-shell model 57,980 yen.

EMOBILE is building its own infrastructure. About 70% of the
population is already covered – the Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya
regions for more than 95%. It has an agreement with NTT DoCoMo
to roam over its network when there is no coverage outside the
large cities. Underground service at subway stations and
shopping malls is still an issue. Negotiations between EMOBILE
and the Japan Tunnel Association to obtain permission for
placing base stations will take about one year.

EMOBILE is not affected by the global financial crisis unlike
Willcomm that has a problem finding investment. Two years ago,
EMOBILE’s CEO Semmoto raised US$3.6 billion to fund his business
expansion. However, recent trouble with the Carlyle Group, a
major backer of EMOBILE, could have a negative impact if the
private equity investment firm does not get its act together

EMOBILE will attract Willcomm’s PHS customers with faster data
services and country wide coverage. Willcomm’s subscriber base
already slightly decreases every month. EMOBILE also benefits
from mobile number portability that allows new customers to
bring their own number. We are interested to see how SoftBank
will be affected by EMOBILE’s aggressive pricing strategy.
Stay tuned.

By Arjen Van Blokland

To comment on this newsletter please do so below.


Good summary on the new emobile package.

Does it not seem crazy to anyone else that negotiations for the base stations in subways will take 1 year? How do they know in advance that negotiations will take one year? It sounds like the whole process is artificially timed and controlled.

With regards to the roaming, note that different pricing for both data and voice apply. Also, if you are in an emobile coverage area (Tokyo, Osaka etc.) but are not in a spot covered by the emobile network you will automatically roam. You have to check an icon on your phone to see whether you are roaming. Roaming from one network to the other also requires you to hang up and restart the call. No good if you start a call as you are walking into a subway.

Finally - also note that only the Toshiba model can roam on to DoCoMo - the HTC S11HT (E-Monster) PDA/smart phone cannot. The S11HT is similar to the HTC TyTn II sold overseas, but has a different frequency radio (1700 Mhz) so although it is unlocked you will not be able to use it on any other network in the world.

Andrew Shuttleworth