Japanese Competition Heats Up, Innovative Offerings Expected
By John Alderman, Tue Mar 30 00:15:00 GMT 2004

These are turbulent times even by the standards of Japan’s permanently mutating mobile world.

Softbank has announced its plans to enter the mobile fray by any means necessary. While one analyst described the company as a disaster waiting to happen Masayoshi Son’s company, which is the majority shareholder of Yahoo Japan, had remarkable success as Yahoo BB got 4 million Japanese subscribers hooked up with ADSL broadband, at great cost to the company. (At most well-trafficked areas in Tokyo you can see—and be accosted by—eager Yahoo salespeople clad in unmistakable red, ready to sign you up for service.)

Just as the company got a $1.14 billion loan from Citibank, the Japanese telecommunications ministry has said that it would go extend licensing to allow new wireless operators. A highly competitive price mixed with innovative mix of wireless and IP is expected.

Perhaps to confirm its position as mobile leader, NTT DoCoMo is sharing their vision of the future, pushing its unique interface research in an interview given by chief technology officer Kota Kinoshita. Mentioned are 3-D sound, and a jaw sensor to allow talking over noisy environments. Even other senses like smell and touch are breezily considered. A video is also referenced, Vision 2010, which offers some of the company’s projects for the future, all wrapped up in a slightly corny package that lovers of Tomorrowland might appreciate.

Is taking the long view just a distraction, since the present seems not to be going according to the master plan? Getting over a period of self-congratulation about the success of its FOMA line of phones, DoCoMo seems to be feeling a little defensive in the short term, as it pushes to stay on top when arch-rival KDDI’s flat-fee pricing for 3G subscribers. As Eric Lin mentioned, DoCoMo reacted by announcing some flat fees of its own.