J@pan Inc Magazine Presents:
W I R E L E S S W A T C H
Commentary on the week's wireless news from Japan
Issue No. 19
Monday, August 13, 2001
+++ Viewpoint: The Great Midsummer i-mode Spam Experiment
- Vodafone to Take Control in Japan
- Japanese Vendors Set to Dominate 3G Base Station Market
- Kodensha to Offer Translation, Speech Service for Mobile
- KDDI Pres: to be Competitive vs. DoCoMo on 3G
+++ WORTH A READ
Next Generation Mobile Content Strategies
11-13 September 2001, London
Next Generation Mobile Content Strategies goes straight to the heart
of mobile content development. By examining case studies from
industry leaders, delegates will gain invaluable insight into the
mobile market today.
+++ Viewpoint: The Great Midsummer i-mode Spam Experiment
It's hot in Tokyo today -- not as hot as it has been, but still damn
hot -- and dreadfully humid. With the humidity and haze rising over
Tokyo and befuddling brains as well as tempers, it's tough to focus
on anything except the most narrow of personal concerns, like staying
cool, drinking water, and my i-mode keitai -- which refuses to stop
buzzing. No, not from voice calls. Its problem, of course, is the
spam -- which just won't stop.
To NTT DoCoMo's credit, the company is trying to do something about
spam. But the folks at i-mode have a tough problem on their hands.
First, the i-mode-using demographic is attractively large (26.085
million as of July 31), and getting bigger every day, presenting a
juicy target for spam spewers.
Second, every single one of those i-moders has an email address that
follows the USERNAME@docomo.ne.jp format, making the email address
guessing problem much simpler. In contrast, there are several domains
used by EZweb keitais, and EZweb and J-Sky users combined (16.082
million) are a much smaller target. If you're a spammer looking for
the easy fruit, you'll naturally hit i-mode first.
Complaints about spam on i-mode have been long and sustained (see WW
No. 9), and DoCoMo has been under increasing pressure from customers,
the media, and regulatory authorities to do something about it. On
August 1, the company said it would allow all subscribers to send or
receive 400 packets of data for free (that's about 100 email messages
based on approximately 100 characters per message), which should help
subscribers avoid paying to receive spam, although this does nothing
to reduce the annoying receipt of spam.
Also, accessing the iMenu page is now free, so that subscribers can
change their email address as often as necessary. Changing address
appears to be one of the few effective spam countermeasures, ignoring
the not insignificant inconvenience of having to inform all your
merutomos (mail friends) of your new address.
The problem is compounded by the fact that, although subscribers may
change the username portion of their address to anything they like
(on a first-come, first-served basis; 3 to 30 alphanumeric
characters), few have bothered to do so, and the spammers know this.
The default username address -- the telephone number (090XXXXXXXX) --
has been easy to guess.
DoCoMo has said it would require new subscribers to select a non-
telephone number address at the time of purchase, and if you have
selected a non-telephone number address, the system no longer allows
you to switch back (nor will it, sensibly, allow you to select anyone
else's phone number). That should help reduce the pool of easily-
guessed i-mode addresses.
That being said, our heat-and-humidity-addled brains got to wondering
this morning exactly how long it takes the spammers to guess a
random, alphanumeric i-mode email address. To help answer this
question, we herewith initiate the Great Midsummer i-mode Spam
First, we used a Web-based random number generator (see link below),
and obtained a series of random alphanumeric strings of 6, 8, or 15
characters. This gave us strings like:
7H2IJF, P0QH1L, 812C23, etc.
GE67V33Z, 4H35YGS2, V70N91A4, etc.
BW5XY3BDZV559KO, 4311853633QW8UM, 7389X5TXMV9H25W, etc.
Within 15 minutes of issuing WW today, we'll go ahead and change one
of our i-mode phones to use one of these random addresses. If the one
selected is already taken, we'll try other random strings until we
get an address that's free.
For the purposes of this experiment, we'll track how much (if any)
spam is received at the random address over the next seven days --
and how quickly the first spam arrives -- and report the results next
Damn, it's hot!
NTT DoCoMo notice to i-mode subscribers on packet fee reduction:
Web-based random number generator, courtesy of Michael J. Gibbs
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+++ Noteworthy News
(Long URLs may break across two lines.)
--> Vodafone to Take Control in Japan
Source: The Telegraph, August 12
EXTRACT: UK-Based Vodafone is in talks to restructure its Japanese
investments in a move that will give it control of J-Phone, Japan's
second largest mobile telephone operator, and make it one of Japan's
most significant foreign investors. Vodafone presently owns 45
percent of Japan Telecom (JT) and 46 percent of J-Phone. In a
complicated share-swap and cash transaction, Vodafone would be left
with a controlling stake of around 67 percent in J-Phone, with JT
owning most of the balance. Vodafone boss Sir Christopher Gent is
determined to rationalize the mobile investments and improve the
margins in the businesses. He is also convinced that Japan will lead
the way in the development of new 3G mobile communications networks
COMMENTARY: We're certainly seeing some surprising developments in
telecoms in Japan this year. First, DoCoMo and the other carriers
said they would open their wireless portals to outside portal owners
and establish e-com billing services for non-official sites, both of
which would fundamentally reshape the now two-and-a-half-year-old
mobile Net revolution. That was pretty good. Next, KDDI announced it
would lease its PHS network to a third party (and a non-operator
telecom company!), creating Japan's first VMO (sort of...). That's
also a major change. Then we saw Vodafone grab a 46 percent share in
J-Phone, giving it effective control of Japan's then-No. 3 carrier
and heralding British Telecom's withdrawal from Japan. J-Phone has
since inched its way into the No. 2 slot, leaving KDDI looking dazed
But Vodafone's assumption of actual control of J-Phone will create a
powerhouse combination that, for the first time, would offer
significant competition to DoCoMo in both domestic and overseas
markets. Besides, DoCoMo's investments overseas, widely viewed as
prescient and unstoppable just a few months ago, are floundering.
i-mode rollout in Europe has been cancelled, and the value of
DoCoMo's shares in KPN and AT&T Wireless have fallen by 86 and 37
percent, respectively, in the past year, according to one report.
J-Phone owns the domestic youth market, consistently fields the best
quality keitais, introduced SMS mail and color handsets before any
other operator in this market, and, under Vodafone, would be
extremely well positioned to export its expertise overseas. With
Vodafone, we may just see the J-Sky mobile Net business model
exported and up and earning revenue in Europe before i-mode even
clears customs at Narita.
--> Japanese Vendors Set to Dominate 3G Base Station Market
Source: BWCS Telecoms Consultants, August 8
EXTRACT: Leading Japanese mobile equipment manufacturers NEC and
Fujitsu are hoping to seize the lion's share of the lucrative 3G base
station market. The two vendors have announced that they are
increasing production of W-CDMA base stations despite a slowdown in
investment by mobile operators and delayed 3G network rollouts. The
Japanese manufacturers are keen to establish a headstart over their
European and US rivals in order to secure a major slice of this
expanding market. NEC and Fujitsu are hoping to use their experience
with NTT DoCoMo's W-CDMA 3G network to give them an edge over their
competitors. Until now Japanese vendors have been unable to use their
experiences with DoCoMo to good effect overseas due to the adoption
of the proprietary PDC second-generation mobile standard in Japan.
However the use of common global 3G standards has also allowed
European vendors to establish themselves in the Japanese market.
Nokia recently won a contract from Japan's third largest mobile
operator, J-Phone, which is controlled by Vodafone, for the supply of
W-CDMA base stations.
COMMENTARY: With Vodafone consolidating its de facto control of
J-Phone, expect to see more overseas equipment suppliers being given
an entry into the Japan wireless market. We can only assume that
Vodafone will want to reward its European and other handset and
infrastructure suppliers with a slice of the large Japanese market.
Of course, it's not all altruism on Vodafone's part. Purchasing
larger lots from equipment suppliers helps reduce purchasing costs.
--> Kodensha to Offer Translation, Speech Service for Mobile Phone Users
Source: Nikkei Asia BizTech, August 7
EXTRACT: Kodensha said it will offer a service called J-Server
Pocket, which allows users to translate Japanese sentences into
English and Korean, and English to Japanese, on mobile phones, from
August 9. Kodensha said it plans to offer the service free of charge
until the end of October, after which it will charge users around
JPY100 per month. With the service, customers can easily translate
Japanese sentences into English or Korean and display the result on
the screen by entering text directly on the mobile phone. The
translations of Japanese into English or into Korean can be spoken in
computer-composed voice. Speech files are created on a server based
on the translated result, and then downloaded to a mobile phone. One
speech file carries up to seven seconds per replay.
COMMENTARY: Japan may be the testing ground for the wireless
Internet, but even here voice recognition and speech activation are
in their infancy. Nonetheless, it's widely agreed that these are
absolute requirements for mobile computing and the wireless Net to
move to the next level. That tiny keypad is just too, well, tiny.
Services like Kodensha's voice translation and other voice-activated
service (see story link below) are modest but concrete steps in the
J@pan Inc profile on Digital Media, builder of DDI Cellular's mobile
NOTE: Watch for a special feature on Japan's ATR Labs and
speech-based AI processing in the September issue of J@pan Inc, due
on bookshop shelves August 25.
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a useful way to keep abreast of events without having to leave your
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rolled out in Japan, and is the perfect newsletter for gadget freaks!
Note, however, that we're not responsible for any cases of "Japan
gadget envy" that develop; in many cases the products you'll read
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Subscribe, unsubscribe, and find out more at:
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--> KDDI Pres: to be Competitive vs. DoCoMo on 3G
Source: Dow Jones Newswire on Yahoo, August 13
EXTRACT: KDDI will offer 3G cellphone handsets this autumn that can
compete on price with those of rival NTT DoCoMo, KDDI president
Tadashi Onodera said Friday. "The biggest difference between our
cdma2000 1X and DoCoMo's 3G will be the handset price. I think we'll
be very competitive in terms of price," Onodera told Dow Jones
Newswire in an interview. Given similar features, KDDI will keep the
prices of its future cdma2000 1X phones essentially the same as its
current cdmaOne phones, he said.
COMMENTARY: cdma2000 1X technology is the next phase of development
in KDDI's current cdmaOne network (now providing 64Kbps downloads).
cdma2000 1x will offer 144Kbps, and put the carrier on the road to
3G. Unlike DoCoMo's 3G W-CDMA network, KDDI's upgrade requires only
software and some minor hardware changes to the existing network,
while DoCoMo will have to invest billions in an entirely new
infrastructure. Also, KDDI can roll out the new high-speed system
through out its entire national network in a much shorter time than
DoCoMo can offer its 3G system.
Onodera's comments are quite important. Overseas, many carriers are
balking at launching 3G networks not least because no one knows what
customers will pay for the handsets or for high-speed data services.
If KDDI can pull off the switch to cdma2000 1X and 144Kbps without
alienating existing customers due to handset or data price increases,
then the case will be proven for other carriers. Unfortunately, the
lesson will largely be applicable only to other CDMA carriers (who,
like KDDI, use Qualcomm's proprietary CDMA technology). In fact, the
vast majority use other standards, and for these, pricing of services
and handsets will remain serious issues.
+++ WORTH A READ
1. Suspect Device: The v-2 Usability Rants
Panasonic P209iS i-Mode phone
The consensus seems to be that this brave new technology, so absurdly
successful in Japan, will recapitulate the triumphs of Japanese
television manufacturers in the '70s and carmakers in the '80s,
sweeping aside well-established competitors with a better, lighter,
hipper alternative. Often enough, the mantra "ten million subscribers
in its first eighteen months of operation" is part of this discourse
-- as if, despite all those mutual-fund commercials, people still
believed past success to be a guarantee of future performance.
My i-mode phone, very graciously provided to me by my employers, is a
P209iS. (As far as I can tell, this means that the handset itself is
made by Panasonic under license, and supports NTT DoCoMo's standard.)
This slim, gleaming clamshell is one of the latest models. Everything
about it reflects the master aesthetic of our age, as seen through a
minutely trend-aware -- which is to say, Japanese -- lens: a lovely
pearlescent silver envelope, organically smooth in the hand, that
flips crisply open to reveal a matchbox-sized, 256-color screen.
I hate it.
This is a highly entertaining rant by Adam Greenfield on the
shortcomings of Japan's wireless esthetic in general, and the i-mode
P209-iS in particular. Not to be missed.
2. Why 14-year-old Japanese Girls Rule the World
Want to understand the future? Talk to a teen in Tokyo
By Charles C. Mann
As a general rule, the science fiction writer William Gibson argues,
Japan is the "default setting for the future," a beta version of
21st-century life. But the Japanese furthest ahead on the way to
tomorrow are the young, and the ones at the vanguard are the teenage
girls. No smarter or wiser than their coevals in Rochester or Rome,
teenage girls in Japan nonetheless have what Gibson calls a
"techno-cultural suppleness" -- a willingness to grab something new
and use it for their own ends -- matched by no other group on earth.
Stuffing their tiny purses with electronic foofaraw unavailable
anywhere else, they live, according to Susan Corrigan, a critic for
the British street-fashion magazine i-D, in "a modern space odyssey
waiting for the rest of the world to catch up."
Compared with their US counterparts, the girls in Harajuku are utter
gadget freaks: tiny pink MiniDisc players with clip-on remotes,
aftermarket headphones festooned in blinking lights, digital cameras
with built-in MP3 players, Cheki cameras like mini-Polaroids, even
the odd handheld DVD viewer.
But the one absolute must [is] the cellular telephone. Covered with
fake, rubbery jewels and Hello Kitty decals, dangling lanyards with
charms and amulets and tiny plastic dolls, cellphones, according to
the cell-software company Index, sit in the purses and pockets of
about 95 percent of all Japanese teenage girls -- a statistic that if
anything seems to understate the devices' ubiquity.
Written by Daniel Scuka (email@example.com)
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