WW-85 -- Mobile Videoconferencing to Be 'Ubiquitous'


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Commentary on the Business of Wireless in Japan

Issue No. 85, Tokyo, Friday, December 20, 2002
Subscribe for free: http://www.wirelesswatchjapan.com



Wireless to Mars and 3G vs. PHS Speed Test

Wherein your WWJ editors finally find out how fast FOMA really is!

Enjoy our year-end report as we chat with Java guru Dr. James Gosling
(cool out-take from our September Java series) about wireless communications
that are out of this world, and then answer the eternal question:
How fast is FOMA? Like really...?

"We Rip the Faceplate Off Japan's Wireless Industry"

in this issue

viewpoint: Mobile Videoconferencing to Be 'Ubiquitous'

wireless notes:
* One of These Things is Not Like the Other
* No Japan Impact as CEO Sir Chris Gent Leaves Vodafone

noteworthy news:
--> DoCoMo Abandons MS Video Format
--> KDDI Sees Japan Mobile Users Grow by 5 mln in 2003
--> Sharp to Begin Net Phone Service on PDAs in April
--> Aplix Updates JBlend for MIDP 2.0
--> Mobile Devices Enter Thinness Battle
--> J-Phone to Unify Price Plans in February 2003

overlooked data:
** Information You Didn't Know You Needed

sign of the times:
*** Bored University Students Spend Classes Sending Email

subscriber statistics, corrections, credits, administrivia

>> GLOCOM Platform/GETI Joint Forum: 2002 Progress in Japan MEMS/Microsystems
>> PHS MoU Group General Meeting - Winter 2002


+++ viewpoint: Mobile Videoconferencing to Be 'Ubiquitous'

Keisuke Hashimoto sent me a mail a couple weeks back to say "I enjoy your
Wireless Watch Japan especially in terms of how a non-Japanese journalist
observes and reports trends in the mobile phone market in Japan." (Thanks,

He explained that he's a market analyst focusing on audio, video, and data
collaboration technology. He is now looking at the potential of "video mobility"
provided by systems such as NTT DoCoMo's FOMA 3G phones and how it may affect
the conferencing market.

He said, "I personally think that video mobility will become a catalyst for
change in the conferencing market and [it] changes the way we communicate
dramatically satisfying human needs of anytime and anywhere. 'Anytime and
anywhere' is an important element for wide deployment of conferencing

This is not the first comment I've heard from 3G videophone users in Japan
pointing to the intriguing potential that this technology provides, and I'm sure
it won't be the last.

However much mobile videoconferencing may still be in the trial phase (due to
cost and low penetration), the technology does indeed work and it remains to be
seen how both business people and every-day folks will apply it.

Despite the reduced-travel-cost promises of corporate videoconferencing via
fixed-line, I don't think this market ever really exploded - primarily because
you and your fellow conferees all had to plonk yourselves down in front of a
central studio-style conference terminal at the same time. With mobile, you all
still have to be online at the same time, but you don't have to be anywhere

Keisuke-san seems to think likewise, and adds that: "Conventional
videoconferencing has been said [over] many years that it would 'take off next
year,' but we have never seen that yet. I am an advocate hoping that mobile
video will become eventually a catalyst for change and become a driver in
facilitating and promoting wide usage of visual communications."

His comments are fairly significant because he actually uses FOMA himself - a
lot - both in private and work life, but he also thinks that mobile
videoconferencing still has a couple of kinks to be worked out - not all of
which relate to technology.

He says, "I sometimes use a mobile videophone on the road to make a video call
to my wife at home, but it is still kind of embarrassing to hold a handset in my
hand on the street and looking into a camera and say, 'hello my dear!' It is
surely not a culture yet. And I also expect the quality of video to be improved.
Also, per-minute call [fees] are unjustifiably expensive and I would like to see
improvement in battery life, design of handsets, service coverage, etc."

But it was his comments about using videoconferencing at home that most caught
my eye - and that most point to how future 3G customers are already being
groomed (DoCoMo marketing staff: Pay attention!).

Keisuke-san says his 2-1/2-year-old daughter is already interested in
communicating visually on both mobile phone and on the set-top video system that
he has in his SOHO office. "She sometimes says to me,'Dad, let's do
videoconferencing.' I do not think that she understands the literal meaning of
the words but she is kind of getting used to stand or sit in front of a monitor
that shows a person talking on the other end of a live video call. She looks
[like she's] just enjoying it."

Just like today's teens can't really imagine a world where there isn't an
Internet, I think mobile videoconferencing will become far more "natural" when
today's kids grow up, graduate from school, and start working - and start using
videophones that they've used since childhood and all through school for work.
"It may take time - I do not know how long - but mobile video together with
conventional video will become ubiquitous," says Keisuke-san. --

Related WWJ video story:
A Guy and his DoCoMo 3G Cell Phone
Takaharu Mita is just a regular guy with a DoCoMo 3G videophone - but like many
early-adopters, he's got no one with whom to hold video calls. In March, he
posted his number on his "FOMA Diary" Web site and invited the world to call -
anytime. Well, the world responded, and Mita-san has got a lot to say about
videophones, Big D, and how society's gonna change...



Year-end Holidays.
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On behalf of WWJ video producer Lawrence Cosh-Ishii and contributing editor
Michael Thuresson, I'd like to wish you and your family a Merry Christmas, a
Happy New Year, and a safe, healthy, and prosperous 2003!

- Daniel Scuka

PS. This week's email newsmagazine is a little later than normal due to a crazy
hectic year-end schedule. I apologize for any inconvenience.


+++ wireless notes

* One of These Things is Not Like the Other
While we've yet to see the definitive list of handset specs for J-Phone's new 3G
models, we hope that the initial features cited for J-Phone's Nokia V-N701 on
the carrier's website are at least incomplete. Why? Eagle-eyed WWJ subscriber
Mark Singer points out that the specs listed on Nokia's site for what appears to
be the same handset - the 6650 - include Bluetooth support - while this at least
somewhat key feature is not mentioned by J-Phone. Singer writes: "I do hope the
specs as announced on the J-Phone site are wrong, and that they have not
purposely crippled the Japanese version of 6650 in order to not compete with the
NEC model." We'll ask J-Phone PR for a response once the holiday season is over.

* No Japan Impact as CEO Sir Chris Gent Leaves Vodafone
CSFB telecoms analyst Mark Berman said this week that, given the fact that the
triumvirate that runs Japan Telecom/J-Phone (Bill Morrow, John Durkin, and
Darryl Green) are all Americans and not apparently closely tied to Mr. Gent, "we
see little near-term impact on the Japan operations from this leadership change
at Vodafone."

Berman also stated that Mr. Gent was a "big-picture type of leader, and thus the
aggressive move into Japan was largely his doing." He concludes that so long as
Japan Telecom/J-Phone continue to execute on the turnaround in profitability, he
sees no reason that the new president would try to interfere with Japan
operations. He adds that, "Japan Telecom is now Vodafone's golden goose."

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+++ noteworthy news

--> DoCoMo Abandons MS Video Format
Source: Computer Weekly CW360, Dec. 18
DoCoMo, video, MPEG, format, ASF, Microsoft

EXTRACT: NTT DoCoMo is switching from a Microsoft video format to an
open-industry standard for its video-on-demand service offered over its
third-generation cellular network. The company is dropping the use of ASF
(Advanced Streaming Format) on its i-motion service in favour of MP4, a wrapper
format for MPEG4 video and audio and text, because of the cost of licensing fees
levied for use of the system by Microsoft, according to an NTT DoCoMo

COMMENTARY: This could hurt Microsoft as it tries to gain a mobile foothold
through Pocket PC Phone Edition and its Windows-Powered Smartphone software (the
first is aimed at PDAs with phone functions while the second is aimed at phones
with PDA functions). DoCoMo's "i-motion" is a video-clip download service
launched in November 2001, and content owners use Montreal-based VoiceAge's
encoding software to prepare the 15-second clips. Content now includes news,
music, weather, and daily life information, and can be full audio and video,
full audio with rotating images, or audio only.

The new MP4-format clips will go up to 300 kilobytes from the current 100 (last
week's new FOMA handsets are compatible with the format), and will provide for
text to be included in the clip (the text can scroll across the screen when the
video plays). Apple Computer's latest version of Quicktime supports the MP4 file
format and allows the clips to be viewed on a PC as well as a phone.


--> KDDI Sees Japan Mobile Users Grow by 5 mln in 2003
Source: Reuters on Forbes.com, Dec. 18
KDDI, 3G subscriber forecast, 2003

EXTRACT: Japan's second-largest telecoms operator, KDDI Corp., said on Wednesday
net growth in the nation's mobile phone users would likely slow to about five
million next year as the market approaches saturation.

COMMENTARY: The comparable figure for the first 11 months of 2002 is 5.7 million
new subscribers (and 9 million over all of 2001). KDDI president Onodera was
cited as stating that subscriber growth is expected to "hit a ceiling" when the
number of mobile phone users reaches 85 to 90 million. Today, about there are
about 73 million mobile phone subscribers in Japan (for a 60% population
penetration rate).

For the future, both KDDI and NTT DoCoMo have said that they will look for
growth in the non-human markets - including animal tracking, machine-to-machine,
telematics, and installed modules. I think these won't really take off, though,
until we see flat-rate data pricing in Japan, and so perhaps the bigger question
in the CDMA/W-CDMA debate is which carrier can offer cheaper, flat-rate packets
first? I sort of suspect that KDDI and its CDMA 1X and 1X EV-DO systems (as of
fall 2003) might win this one.

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CSFB sr. telecoms analyst Mark Berman on Japan, 3G, and mobile trends
in 2003
Wednesday, January 18, 2003, 18:00 JST

"We Rip the Faceplate Off Japan's Wireless Industry"

--> Sharp to Begin Net Phone Service on PDAs in April
Source: Dow Jones on Yahoo, Dec. 17
Sharp, PDA, IP telephony

EXTRACT: Sharp Corp. said Tuesday it will begin an Internet telephone service
through its "Zaurus" personal digital assistant in April. The service will use
wireless local area networks (WLAN) set up at hotels, stations, and other
locations nationwide, the company said. The Internet protocol, or IP, phone
service offered on PDAs may become a rival to existing mobile phone services.

COMMENTARY: Sharp opened a free trial yesterday for 1,000 users that makes use
of some 300 WLAN access points operated by NTT Communications Corp. The trial
service will last until full-scale service starts in April. Subscribers will be
able to make unlimited IP calls for a flat monthly fee of "several hundred yen"
(as well as pay the NTT Com fee - now 1,600 yen per month). Sharp intends to
sign up other WLAN service providers to expand the system, which will work only
on Zaurus PDAs.

Related WWJ video story:
WLAN: NTT Com VP Doesn't Expect 'Large Revenue'
NTT Communications doesn't expect to generate large revenue from WLAN itself,
says senior executive vice president Shuji Tomita. Instead, the company will
bundle hotspot access via high-speed WLAN base stations with landline
connectivity and value-added services including roaming, security, and IPv6.
They're also busy boosting their 250-base-station network to 1,000. Phew!


--> Aplix Updates JBlend for MIDP 2.0
Source: PMN, Dec. 16
Aplix, JBlend, MIDP 2.0, Java

EXTRACT: Aplix, provider of the JBlend platform, has announced it is shipping a
new version updated to support MIDP 2.0 to its 'early access' customers. JBlend
is used by several Japanese manufacturers and has shipped on some 12m devices,
including the new Sharp GX10, flagship of Vodafone's Live! service.

COMMENTARY: The new version of the J2ME (Java 2 Micro Edition) mobile
information device profile 2.0 (or J2ME MIDP 2.0) incorporates numerous
enhancements to support multimedia, messaging, and security features.


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"We Rip the Faceplate Off Japan's Wireless Industry"

Mobile Devices Enter Thinness Battle
Source: NEAsia Online, Dec. 16
Device form factor, thin

EXTRACT: In the field of digital cameras and cell phones, many thin-style
devices came out in the fall and winter of 2002, and these models occupy the top
ranks in the best-seller charts. The same tendency can be seen for the cell
phone handsets. Although the model is quite expensive, the P504i from NTT DoCoMo
Inc., a flip-type cell phone with a depth of 16.8mm, is ranked high on the
best-seller chart. Among the handsets from Tu-Ka Group, the TK12, the thinnest
model in the group with a depth of 19mm when folded, is competing to become the
top-selling model in the middle of November 2002.

COMMENTARY: Casio's super-thin EXILIM digicam is also selling well, so it looks
like Japanese consumers love thin whether its for phones or cameras. This story
also provides a chart (below) of top-selling mobile phones.



J-Phone to Unify Price Plans in February 2003
Source: J-Phone PR, Dec. 18
J-Phone, price plans, 2G, 3G

EXTRACT: J-Phone said it had sought permission from the Japanese Ministry of
Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications to offer six price
plans and seven discount services for its 2G (PDC) networks that are nationally
unified from February 1, 2003. All six price plans are package plans that come
with free calls, including the Value Pack Platinum which has a basic charge of
14,500 yen with Japan's largest amount of free calls in the industry at 10,000
yen, and the Value Pack, which has a basic charge of 3,900 yen with 2,000 yen of
free calls.

Seven discount services will also be introduced simultaneously, including
Automatic Carry Over which transfers unused free calls to the following month
and Family Discount which allows up to four family members to save 50% on basic

COMMENTARY: Looks like J-Phone is refining its calling plans to incorporate the
Vodafone Global Standard billing plans (that include roaming) into the carrier's
basic fee structure. Also, there have until now been regional pricing plans in
Japan, and it appears that this will give the carrier a unified national price
structure. The fee tables are explained here.


>> PHS MoU Group General Meeting - Winter 2002

For further information, please contact the PHS MoU Group at:
Tel: +81-3-5510-8599
Fax: +81-3-3592-1103

14-17 January 2003, Tokyo, Japan

As with our hugely successful 2002 event, 3GMobile World Forum 2003
will aim to present a realistic view of the 3G opportunity, and to
provide a platform to transform 3G technology and demand for new high
value services into revenue across Asia-Pacific, Europe and the US.

For further information, visit: http://www.3gmobileforum.com

+++ overlooked data

Information You Didn't Know You Needed
Just got a copy of NTT DoCoMo's newest FOMA catalog conveniently translated into
English. It's a slick, 58-page glossy book, and a whole page is devoted to
explaining Big D's "DoCoMo Information Dial" service which provides "information
programs you can listen to on your FOMA terminal or DoCoMo mobile phone for just
the communications charges."

Evidently you dial "#" plus a 4-digit access code. The program line-up includes,
reasonably enough, services like sports scores (horse racing, baseball, and
soccer), weather, and road conditions. But then there's the "Variety" section
which includes:

DoCoMo presents the facts of life (#9714)
Answers to the questions you've never been able to ask.
You are alone at night and thinking about your health. DoCoMo provides
the answers to the questions you couldn't ask anyone up until now.

I swear I'm not making this up! Also:

Papa dial (#8188)
Full of great ideas for spending fun time with children. Segments
include various topics according to the age of your child, parent-child
compatibility, as well as ways for parents and children to enjoy more
time together all day long.

I guess Dad's Sunday afternoons with the kids can get a little stressful! Thank
goodness he can escape to his salaryman job for the other six days of the
week... ;-)

Ironically, you can also access "Mobile Eki Supoato" - a voice-activated info
service that provides train times and fare information. It's provided by Val
Labs, the company that also provides the train and subway database service to

So this means you can access data via voice that can also be accessed as...
data. Is it cheaper to pay the airtime fee to listen to the bits being spoken by
a computer via FOMA's voice circuit or to download them as packets via the
packet-switched network and view them as i-mode text? Enquiring digital minds
want to know...

+++ sign of the times

Bored University Students Spend Classes Sending Email

Mainichi Shimbun, Dec. 12
A staggering 81 percent of polled university students said that they
exchange email by their mobile phones during classes, a survey revealed
on Thursday.
Students of Sophia, Seikei, Senshu, Tokyo Keizai, Toyo, and Waseda
universities in Tokyo said they polled 800 students recently about what
they usually did during classes. Using email services to contact friends
or lovers topped the list, with 84 percent of female students and 77
percent of males admitting to sending email.

... When I was a student, we used to sleep. Thank goodness there were no
damn cellys to keep us awake! No wonder today's youth are all nackered

+++ Subscriber Statistics, Corrections, Credits, Administrivia

3,397 (via japaninc.com and wwj.com) as of Dec. 20, 2002

WWJ video newsmagazine researched, edited and hosted and email
newsletter researched and written by:
Daniel Scuka (daniel@wirelesswatchjapan.com)
Michael Thuresson (michael@wirelesswatchjapan.com)

WWJ video newsmagazine produced and edited by:
Lawrence Cosh-Ishii (video@wirelesswatchjapan.com)


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