Telco Customers Come First, and Always Have

[Refers to April 13, 2001 Wireless Watch newsletter]

"It's also remarkable that Natsuno, an outsider parachuted cellphonein from failed, free ISP Hypernet, and Matsunaga, also an cellphone outsider, were able to get a bunch of NTT DoCoMo cellphone 'we're-a-telco-and-customers-come-last' mindset engineers to cellphone accept the proposition that if i-mode wasn't easy to use, and cellphone cheap, and that if there wasn't sufficient content to compel cellphone people to use it, then the service would go nowhere."

As a former telco equipment design engineer, I'll have to disagree with your comment above. While internally the networks and systems may be ridiculously complex, good telco engineers regard end-user ease of use and reliability as the prime criteria for any development.

That is why you have a system that has shown 6 nines performance for over 50 years that allows anyone in the world to place a phone call to any other person with minimal instruction. Compare the amount of instruction you need to use a standard telephone versus almost any other device you have.

Eric Hildum

Writer's reply:
No doubt, the global PSTN voice network is a marvel to use; hats off to the engineers who have made it so. My beef starts when those same engineers get involved in a project -- like i-mode -- where think-outside-the-box usability is key. Absent Natsuno and Matsunaga, there is no doubt in my mind that DoCoMo would have deployed an Internet keitai that required configuration, cross-syncing, uploading, and messing with software. And why not? For people who love technology, the more the better! What the two brought to i-mode was a non-engineering mindset -- vital for creating a customer-oriented service common people could use. Other than i-mode itself, DoCoMo is just as sclerotic as any other large Japanese technology company, and its customer service is nothing to shout about. I can't convince them to automatically debit my PHS bill from my Citibank account ("It's not a city bank ...") even thought they **already** do so for both my cellular phone and my wife's. Let the engineers focus on technology, but let business- and marketing-savvy types handle the service presentation. --DGS