Posts Tagged cell-phone

Oct
24

Today is MNP-day

Posted by on Tuesday, 24 October, 2006

Softbank
Today is MNP-day in Japan. MNP stands for Mobile Number Portability (Japanese Wikipedia, English Wikipedia) and basically means that you can switch mobile phone provider without changing your phone number. Before starting to work in the telecom industry, I would have thought that it did not take any great technical effort to do so, but I have come to understand that it is no walk in the park.

Here in Japan, the cell phone industry is very interesting at the moment. As you know, Softbank bought out Vodafone’s Japanese operations earlier this year, and started using the brand “Softbank” from October 1. Since Softbank took over, there has been a big change in the branding and advertising of the company. While Vodafone heavily focused on brand image and globalization, Softbank is clearly more local and to the point in their advertising. Vodafone used famous stars trying to push an image of Vodafone onto the public, whereas Softbank are using more traditional Japanese advertisements emphasizing the products or pricing plans.

The day of MNP has been known for a while now, and there has been massive speculation over what will happen when this possibility is introduced. Given the past poor performance of Vodafone, and recent good performance by KDDI’s au, it has been the common opinion that surely Vodafone will lose a lot of customers to the more hip and technically advanced au after October 24. The third (and largest) player, NTT Docomo has been generally believed to stay rather flat, maybe losing a few customers to au as well.

However, with the change from Vodafone to Softbank, all bets are now off again. Softbank have been very active in the media lately, and as I said above, has vastly changed its image and distanced itself from Vodafone which probably have had a positive effect on its brand. No longer are the same clunky phones used in Europe also marketed in Japan, but new, slim, modern phones unique for Japan are starting to show up. Further, the held a big press event last night on the eve of the MNP announcing 予想外割引 (‘Yosogai Waribiki’ = Unexpected Discount) which is a super-discounted plan open to people signing up for a Softbank account from today until January 15, 2007. Basically you pay 2,880 Yen per month (about $25) and for that you get 200 free minutes per month as well as basically free messaging and 2 months free web-browsing and some other things. With this extremely cheap plan as well as a generally low pricing structure compared with its competitors, I would not be surprised if Softbank actually gains users through the MNP instead of losing them.

My predicitions (will check the stats at the end of the year to see if I was correct):

au : Will gain some users (mainly from Docomo)
Docomo : Will lose some users (mainly to Softbank)
Softbank : Will gain some users (mainly from Docomo)

[UPDATE]
It seems I might be right… Softbank stops accepting new applications due to overflow of orders

Jul
24

Various snapshots from Japan

Posted by on Monday, 24 July, 2006

I have collected quite a few funny and interesting photos on my cellphone, snapshots I have taken when I saw something that really caught my eye. I figured I got enough for a blog post, so here you go! Hover over the photo for a description, click to view the whole photo.


Go Dickies!
'Nice Guys' head piece
'Playboy' head piece
Heldass - great name for a diet supplement!
A classic: the women's lap pillow
Square-shaped melon!
Panchiettr (?!)
Ginza Chuo-Dori on a Saturday

In case you are looking for the “joke” or “funny part” in that last photo… there is none, I just wanted to post post how Ginza now looks on Saturdays and Sundays – when theyu turn Chuo-Dori into a no-car zone. Recently they have put out some tables and chairs in the middle of the street for people to sit and relax. It’s really really nice, actually.

By the way, a few months ago, I posted another batch of these kinds of photos, check that post out here.

Mar
06

Softbank to buy Vodafone Japan?

Posted by on Monday, 6 March, 2006

This weekend saw some interesting developments in the Japanese cell phone market; apparently, Vodafone and Softbank are in talks regarding the possible sale of Vodafone’s Japanese operations to Softbank.

This is interesting on many levels, and although I really haven’t thought about it and made up my mind on what this will mean for everyone involved, these are my first thoughts about it:

– Softbank recently was given a new 3G license by the Japanese government to start up their own mobile phone service in Japan. If they now buy one of the original license holders, where does that leave the competitive situation? One of the reasons for giving out new licenses was to increase competion – the net effect of this deal is that we will only get one new major player in this market, not two as orignally planned. Will the government give out a new license to someone else?

– NTT DoCoMo and au (KDDI) should be scared by this news – they have been rather safe in the Japanese market for a while with Vodafone never putting up any serious competition, and personally I do not see eMobile (another new license-holder) being a big threat to the major players. Softbank was always the big threat to the other companies, but especially so for Vodafone who was the smallest in the market. If Softbank and Vodafone joins together, Softbank gets a quick start to its business and can move rapidly ahead with its presumed plans to revolutionize the cell phone market in Japan (at least that’s what everyone is hoping for/worrying about).

– I don’t want to be blunt, but I say this deal is also the beginning of the end to Vodafone (you read it here first, remember that). Whereas I see many positive comments about this in the news, I cannot see anything positive about this in the long run for Vodafone. Basically they are saying “we are not smart enough to be competitive in Japan, so we are quitting” – Japan is the most important cell phone market in the world, for crying out loud! It is a test bed for nearly all major technological innovations within the mobile phone market, and they are simply stepping out. Vodafone has lost its ability to grow organically, and where they find themselves in a bind, they leave (they sold their local company in Sweden too, a while ago). Mark my words, you will not see Vodafone on the cell phone market in a few years.

All in all, it is very interesting news – and I will follow it closely.

UPDATEIt seems that I was not the only one thinking in these terms – the other “new” license-receiver eAccess (eMobile) has apparently announced that they will submit a request to the government to withdraw the 1.7 GHz license from Softbank if they buy out Vodafone. Source: ItMedia (in Japanese)

Jan
21

New cell phones from au

Posted by on Saturday, 21 January, 2006

Japanese cell phone operator au (KDDI) presented their “Spring Lineup” of new phones yesterday, and there are a few quite interesting models! The link goes to the au page presenting the seven new models – it’s in Japanese, but there’s some amazing Flash work done, and you can at least check out the pictures.

The phones released are:

W41SA from Sanyo, W41S from Sony-Ericsson, W41T from Toshiba, W41CA from Casio, W41K from Kyocera, W41H from Hitachi, and Neon. Neon is a quite interesting looking phone, designed by Naoto Fukasawa who is a designer from the Japanese design company PlusMinusZero.

New Sony Ericsson phone W41S

Being Swedish, I am of course interested in the newest S-E model, W41S, which looks darn nice, and has some good specs too. You can check the details of W41S here (in Japanese though). In short, it weighs 119g, has 250 hours standby, 240×320 TFT screen (24bit color), 40 MB memory (can be expanded via Memory Stick Duo to 2 GB), 1.3 Mpixel camera, stereo virtual surround speakers, support for mobile SUICA (use the cell phone to pay your train fare), can display non-mobile webpages, and has a wide range of functionality when it comes to downloading/transferring music back and forth between the phone and your pc.