DoCoMo Goes Corporate
By Eric Lin, Tue Oct 19 01:45:00 GMT 2004

Most networks give corporate users access to new high speed services long before the mass market users get their chance. Finally, years after launching its 3G network, NTT DoCoMo is developing handsets and services for the business class.

Although the wireline arm of NTT has been busy creating new products for its enterprise customers lately, DoCoMo has all but ignored them. The only 3G effort from the company to woo corporate users is a handset that can make Voice over Wi-Fi calls using special access points (from parent company NTT), not anything that takes advantage of faster data networks or more advanced handset features. Masao Nakamura, the new President of NTT DoCoMo, announced that he wanted to increase the number of FOMA subscribers 400 percent in the next 3 years, but planned to do it with price drops and lower cost handsets. DoCoMo (and competitor KDDI) has been very successful signing up mass market users to its 3G network, but it has finally realized it was leaving out a large group of data users: corporate customers. Currently they only account for five percent of FOMA subscribers.

DoCoMo is expected to launch a new line of FOMA handsets to lure business users to its 3G network soon, in hopes of doubling their number to about ten percent of 3G subs. The business handsets are expected from Nokia and Motorola, which DoCoMo only recently announced would be manufacturing new models for the carrier. Building on many corporate users' addictions to PDAs as well their need to work from the field, the phones will be able to read Microsoft Office documents, as well as sync calendars and other data. DoCoMo and Symbian have a technology agreement and have already launched one 3G handset running the OS. It is likely these new efforts from Nokia and Motorola, both Symbian licensees, will run a version of the Symbian OS as well.

The long delay between DoCoMo's consumer 3G launch and its business entries stands in stark contrast to Western operators. In Europe and North America, most carriers offer 3G to business users first. They concentrate on offering data cards and advanced smartphones to help corporate users make the most of high speed services, using these subscribers to soft launch the networks as well spread the word about their capabilities. These users will typically pay more for the higher speeds, helping carriers to recover some of their initial investment quicker.

Despite the lucrative spending habit of businesses, there are more mass market users than corporate users. DoCoMo choose to go after the larger group first instead of the wealthier one. Now, in addition to addressing the needs of simpler users, DoCoMo is going after after the corporate niche. Although the handsets are expected to cost more than typical 3G phones, DoCoMo will probably not generate that much more income from corporate subscription charges. It will be difficult to follow in Western carriers' footsteps charging these users more for the luxury of faster data when it already offers a flat rate tariff to FOMA users. Instead It is likely that DoCoMo will try to generate income with volume. To do this it will need to address the needs of many niche markets in addition to corporate users.