MMJ: Japanese market update 23/09/2002


KDDI’s recent successes have made it more ambitious, prompting it to raise its target for new sign ups from 17% to 25%. KDDI is launching a new round of camera-phones and cutting data prices in the hope of spurring more demand. Where do they plan to get these new subs? “By chipping away at DoCoMo,” says KDDI General Manager Toshio Maki. Love that bravado.

This was a great week for innovation in Japan, so we would like to cover some new wireless concepts:

DDI Pocket Inc. will launch a personal handyphone system (PHS) that looks like a secure memory card, a Compact Flash-type PHS and a stick shaped PHS with a USB connections. What makes these new data communication terminals cool is their size and functionality. The tiny devices are intended to link PHS with digital cameras and home appliances.

Wireless LAN provider SpeedNet is trying to make public WLANs more accessible by teaming up with am/pm’s convenience stores to offer public access sign-up via credit card or scratch cards bought at the store chain. Although the trial is currently free, the company hopes to eventually charge 300 yen per day to access the WLAN service.

Rental Video Shop company Geo Co., Ltd. and Index Corp. rolled out a membership authorisation system using infrared capabilities of DoCoMo’s latest 504i series handsets. By installing a Java application, a customer can verify membership by placing the handset on a cash register. In the future, the companies hope to use the system for payment transactions.

NEC Corp. released the “Moirissimo,” a voice-to-text product that interprets voice commands to display requested information on the cell phone screen. Omron Corp. released a similar technology allowing users to execute various commands via voice, such as speaking their name when making a reservation and then confirming what has been said on the phone screen.

Sony’s contactless “FeliCa” IC card (most well-known for its use as a wireless train fare card) will soon bear fruit to new near field communication (NFC) technologies being developed by Sony. The company is planning to embed the technology as a wireless communication interface in digital cameras, personal computers and MP3 players. This would potentially allow the transfer of images and voice data between devices by placing them close to each other.

Finally, Japan’s Ministry of Telecommunications intends to develop a home-use ultra wideband system with Sony Corp. and Sharp Corp. to allow large-capacity wireless communication between PCs and audio visual equipment. The ministry wants to develop it in the next two years into a commercially viable system that can transmit a 10-minute video clip in 10 seconds.

There you have it: the latest Japanese secrets on PHS, WLAN, content development, voice technology, contactless cards and visionary products being driven by the nation’s own Ministry of Telecom, to be potentially delivered by consumer techno-giants Sharp and Sony.

Written by Scott Murff for PMN Mobile Industry Intelligence.
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