MMW-99 -- NTT DoCoMo Releases First 'Chaku-uta Full' Phone

J@pan Inc Magazine Presents:
Commentary on Japan's music technology news

Issue No. 99
Wednesday, June 7, 2006


++ FEATURE: NTT DoCoMo Releases First 'Chaku-uta Full' Phone

** Oricon to Add Music Download Sales Rankings
** Microsoft Forms More Music Alliances in Japan
** Yamaha Starts Online Service for Original Songs
** RIAJ Releases Digital Music Sales Figures For First Quarter of 2006
** Tower Records Japan Starts Support for NTT DoCoMo 'Mobile Wallet'
** Napster Japan Announces Autumn Launch

++ FEATURE: NTT DoCoMo Releases First 'Chaku-uta Full' Phone

Panasonic's new FOMA phone (P902iS) goes on sale today in shops across
Japan. At the same time, a much anticipated content category will appear for
the first time on NTT DoCoMo's portal menu: Chaku-uta Full.

It has been over a year-and-a-half since KDDI introduced full-song mobile
downloads in Japan, recording an impressive one million downloads in the
first month. KDDI has since gone on to log over 50 million full-song mobile
downloads and last month opened its own 'LISMO Music Store' which allows
Chaku-uta Full downloads via PC. Meanwhile, NTT DoCoMo has consistently
downplayed the importance of full-song mobile downloads in the press,
showing no signs of ever offering the same service to its own subscribers.

That all changed a few weeks ago when DoCoMo held a press conference to
announce its new lineup of upcoming FOMA handsets. Displaying a new found
desire to promote music services, Yoshiaki Maeda, director of DoCoMo's
multimedia services division, went on to announce the start of DoCoMo's
chaku-uta full service in June as well as the company's collaboration with
Microsoft to bring Windows Media Technology to its FOMA models.

Initially, the chaku-uta full service will only be available on the new P902iS
handset. Tracks on the service will be encoded in aacPlus format. As with
KDDI's service, customers can download songs and then set a portion of the
song as the ringtone for their phones. Pricing is said to range from 53 to
535 yen per track (US$0.50 to $4.75), with most content providers opting
for a subscription-based model.

Later this year, DoCoMo will release a second handset that supports the
full-song service, the N902iX HIGH-SPEED. Priced at a hefty 50,000 yen
(US$450), this will be Japan's first HSDPA (High Speed Downlink Packet
Access) '3.5G' handset and will boast download speeds of 3.6Mbps. This
speed is roughly 10 times faster than that of the current FOMA phones.
Initially for this model only, DoCoMo will expand its maximum data size
restriction for video files from 500KB to 5MB. It will also start a new service
called 'Music Channel', offering music video programs in a subscription
format very similar to that of KDDI's 'EZ Channel'.

With DoCoMo's incursion into KDDI's territory of full-song downloads and
music video programs, the mobile music landscape in Japan becomes much
more interesting. DoCoMo is playing catch-up in a major way here, and its
first challenge is to make sure it does not lose subscribers to KDDI when
number portability starts in Japan this fall. No doubt this is a big factor in
the timing of its recent music-related announcements and alliances.

Of course, many here have been wondering why DoCoMo waited so long
to start a full-song download service. The most likely explanation is that they
have simply been guarding their network bandwidth and resisting services
that rely on flat-rate data plans. Once a carrier is no longer able to charge
the user for data transfer, heavy multimedia files become just another drain
on their network resources - something to be avoided rather than embraced.

In fact, the recent strain of full-song and video program downloads on
KDDI's network has become more evident in recent months, with a noticeable
increase in wait time and dropped connections. DoCoMo, by contrast, has
traditionally put tough limits on the size of data transfers from its official
sites in order to keep things relatively quick for the average user.

However, the demand for full-song mobile downloads has become so
overwhelming that some kind of response was needed. By electing to
start the service now, but limit it to just one new handset for a while,
DoCoMo can test the waters and issue press releases about full-song
downloads while still keeping its overall network safely uncongested.
Not the most aggressive or spectacular of starts, but (at long last) a
start nonetheless.


** Oricon to Add Music Download Sales Rankings
In brief: Oricon, known in Japan for its album ranking charts, announced
last week that it would begin tracking the sales rankings of music downloads
this fall. The rankings will be divided into three categories: chaku-uta
(mastertones), chaku-uta full (full-song mobile) and PC downloads.

** Microsoft Forms More Music Alliances in Japan
In brief: A few weeks after announcing that Windows Media technology
would be supported on NTT DoCoMo mobile phones, Microsoft announced
on May 31 that it will collaborate with several other Japanese companies
to increase the spread of Windows Media Player on mobile music devices.
In addition to DoCoMo, Microsoft will be working with Toshiba, Napster
Japan, Victor Japan and four other companies. Manufacturers such as
Toshiba will develop the music player devices, while other companies
such as Napster provide services.

** Yamaha Starts Online Service for Original Songs
In brief: On June 1, Yamaha began a new online service for distributing
original songs submitted by songwriters. The new service is called ‘Music
Market’ and is part of Yamaha's ‘Player's Ohkoku' web site. Songwriters
are charged 2,100 yen (US$18.75) per song to register a track for sale
on the site. Tracks are priced at 105 yen (US$0.95), with 50 yen going
to the songwriter. Yamaha estimates that the site will record 33 thousand
downloads in the first year.

** RIAJ Releases Digital Music Sales Figures For First Quarter of 2006
In brief: The Record Industry Association of Japan (RIAJ) released digital
music sales figures for the three-month period from January to March 2006.
The total number of downloads for this period was close to 89 million,
resulting in sales of 12 billion yen (US$107 million). Mobile downloads
accounted for about 90% of the total. The number of mobile downloads
in this period showed a 63% increase over the same period last year,
with a sales increase of 73%.

** Tower Records Japan Starts Support for NTT DoCoMo 'Mobile Wallet'
In brief: Tower Records Japan announced that on June 12, it will begin
accepting credit payments by 'mobile wallet' using NTT DoCoMo's 'iD'
credit system at all of its 82 shops across Japan. NTT DoCoMo currently
holds 42% of Tower Records Japan stock.

** Napster Japan Announces Autumn Launch
In brief: Napster Japan announced last week that it would begin its
subscription-based download service in Japan sometime this fall.
The basic subscription service will be similar to that offered in the US,
with a catalog of 1.5 million tracks. 'Napster To Go', which will allow
rented tracks to be transferred to portable players, will also be available
in Japan.
Subscribers: 4,753 as of June 7, 2006

Written by: Steve Myers (
Steve Myers is president and chief enthusiast of Theta Music
Technologies, which specializes in the development of music-related
software applications.

Edited by J@pan Inc editors: (


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