DoCoMo Latest Convergent Carrier
By Carlo Longino, Mon Jun 21 22:30:00 GMT 2004

Japan's NTT DoCoMo says it will this summer begin selling a 3G phone that will connect to office Wi-Fi networks for VoIP.

Just last week, South Korea's KT announced a plan where users roam between the mobile network and the fixed-line network when they're at home using a single handset and a Bluetooth access point -- the same set-up that BT has launched with its Bluephone product in the UK.

But DoCoMo is the first carrier to say it will use Wi-Fi instead of Bluetooth, and it hopes that the system will boost its corporate sales, which account for only about 10 percent of Japan's mobile-phone market, by selling the handsets along with Wi-Fi equipment for use in offices. Rival KDDI will likely launch a competing product in November, and Vodafone (which partners with BT on Bluephone in the UK, but, like DoCoMo, turned down an invitation to join a trade group started by BT for mobile-landline convergence) is looking into it.

What also sets apart DoCoMo's effort is that it's likely to steal business away from its parent, NTT -- Japan's top fixed-line carrier. But it could be a pre-emptive defensive move against Softbank, which has said it wants to enter the mobile business in the country. Softbank's a leading broadband provider, and recently purchased Japan Telecom to boost its corporate broadband business. Perhaps DoCoMo is already looking to lock in its current enterprise users, and attract more before Softbank can come on the scene and offer both mobile and data services to users -- though it may have some advantage if DoCoMo's system has been rushed to market and isn't up to snuff.