JIN-162 -- Mobile Paradise or Wireless Jungle?

J@pan Inc Magazine Presents:
T H E J @ P A N I N C N E W S L E T T E R
Commentary on the week's business and technology news

Issue No. 162
Wednesday, December 19, 2001

NOTICE: The J@pan Inc newsletter will next appear on January 9. Happy
holidays to our readers!


++ Viewpoint: Mobile Paradise or Wireless Jungle?
++ Noteworthy News
- Softbank to Start Broadband Phone Business
- Toshiba to Withdraw from DRAM Business
- Cybird to Make Content for KPN Mobile's European i-mode
++ Events

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++ VIEWPOINT: Mobile Paradise or Wireless Jungle? Japan's Mobile
Phone Tariffs are as Clear as Mud

Japan in general -- and Tokyo specifically -- may be a hotbed of all
things wireless; with mobile phones sporting 3G-this, CDMA-that and
no shortage of "the other," but how do budding i-moders determine
where to splash their yen? Forgive us for returning to the theme of
filthy lucre, but we can hold back no longer when it comes to the
money for nothing attitude in some quarters. Daniel Scuka touched on
the hideously complex web woven of its pricing structure by NTT
DoCoMo in his Wireless Watch comment on the introduction of 3G FOMA
services (see link below), but tariffs for the more mundane 2G
services are also hellish to navigate.

We're not down on any one of the networks, but let's take a look at
the price plans from KDDI-owned Au. Its current in-store catalog does
a splendid job, drawing in readers with bijoux phones galore, only to
then beat them into submission with a pricing spread that features no
fewer than 12 different tariffs. Each tariff features three
subsections explaining permutations, with a further four prices added
to each subsection to show how costs change over the subsequent four
years. The per-minute rates (during up to four different periods)
follow hard on the heels of those sets of figures. Throw in the (very
welcome) student and family discounts available, a welter of
Venn-diagram-like charts and four more pages on other costs, and
you've got one almighty headache -- not exactly conducive to making
the best decision on something that's going to cost you a heck of a
lot of dough over its lifetime. We'd never suggest that the five
mobile networks deliberately make it difficult for customers to spend
only what they can afford, but they sure don't make it easy without a
PhD in semiotics.

British readers will be sick to death of the hackneyed phrase
"Rip-off Britain," used to describe how the UK punter is, well, used
to being fleeced, but the continuing parlous (has it really ever been
otherwise?) state of the Japanese economy is leading local consumers
to question "Rip-off Japan" these days. Brits have benefited from the
telecoms regulator OFTEL forcing mobile networks to simplify charging
plans, but is it ever likely to happen in Japan? Don't get the wrong
idea -- we love the place and can't get enough of its gadgets and
gizmos, but there's only so much obfuscation in the name of the
corporate buck one can stomach. 100 yen discount shops are all very
well if what you need is that sense of having snared a bargain, but
in a country where to be keitai free is to be friend free, it's
verging on inhumane to force phone shoppers to jump through hoops
*and* to pay through the nose in order to stay in touch.

-- J Mark Lytle

Wireless Watch by Daniel Scuka:

KWR International
The KWR International Advisor highlights the real implications of
important economic, political and financial trends as they appear
on the global horizon. To access your copy and obtain a free
subscription, Go to:
or contact:

(Long URLs may break across two lines.)

**Softbank To Start Broadband Phone Business Using ADSL

Extract: Softbank, Japan's largest Internet service investor, said it
will launch broadband telephone services next spring for subscribers
of Yahoo BB's asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL) service. The
price for both domestic and international calls will be 7.5 yen per
minute, the cheapest in Japan. Users will pay a 390 yen monthly fee
and 140 yen for a rental adaptor, on top of the NTT monthly usage fee
for phone lines.

Commentary: This may be good news for Yahoo BB subscribers, but
investors in Tokyo so far have reacted negatively to the news.
Competition in Japan's telecommunications field has become more and
more severe after the introduction of the My Line system for
selecting phone services. Besides, Yahoo BB has a backlog of 300,000
subscribers still waiting for their ADSL services to be connected.

Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son claims that Softbank and Yahoo have
already set up 1.2 million lines within the NTT system, and he didn't
want to wait longer to launch the service.

News from Asahi Shimbun and Kyodo:



J@pan Inc magazine produces two other newsletters:

++ Wireless Watch (WW): Mondays -- A weekly digest of news
and commentary focusing on Japan's wireless industry. Stay up to date
on i-mode, 3G phones and everything else wireless with WW.

++ Gadget Watch (GW): Thursdays -- Looks at the latest gadgets
being 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 about are available only on these shores.

Subscribe, unsubscribe, and find out more at:

We don't sell our lists to spammers, so breathe easy.

** Toshiba to Withdraw from DRAM Business

Extract: Toshiba announced that it will withdraw from the dynamic
random access memory (DRAM) market. It plans to sell its main factory
in Virginia to US firm Micron Technology by the end of 2002. It also
announced that it will focus on more advanced chips, such as large
scale integration (LSI) or system on chips (SoC).

Commentary: Back in the 1980s, Japan used to be a world leader of
DRAMs. Toshiba's plan for withdrawal means the global DRAM market
will be largely in the hands of two giants -- Samsung Electronics and
Micron Technology. According to private research firm Gartner,
Samsung has 21.1 percent market share, and Micron Technology has
18.9. In Japan, NEC (6.7 percent) and Hitachi (3.9 percent) have
announced plans to integrate their DRAM businesses. Toshiba, with a
6.2 percent global market share, was reportedly negotiating with the
German Infineon Technologies at one time.

Release from Toshiba (in Japanese):

From the Nihon Keizai Shimbun (in Japanese):

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** Cybird to Make Content for KPN Mobile's European i-mode

Extract: Japanese i-mode content maker Cybird is spreading its wings
and flying to Europe. The company announced this week that it would
provide content for KPN Mobile's version of i-mode, to be launched in
Europe in April.

NTT DoCoMo announced back in January that it, KPN Mobile of the
Netherlands and TIM of Italy would work together to form a
pan-European mobile Internet alliance.

Commentary: Cybird may be the first of many to announce ties with
European companies as NTT DoCoMo, i-mode content makers and cellphone
handset sellers hope Europe takes to i-mode in the way Japan has. The
Japanese market has reached saturation, and many are casting a
hopeful eye to the Continent for 2002.

From Cybird's Web site (in Japanese):

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SUBSCRIBERS: 4,853 as of December 19, 2001

Written by Bruce Rutledge (bruce@japaninc.com), Sumie Kawakami
(sumie@japaninc.com) and J Mark Lytle (mark@japaninc.com)

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