Japan has experienced a huge demand for wireless data services, as evidenced by the incredible success of DoCoMo’s i-mode mobile Internet service. In 2001, Japan accounted for over 80% of the world’s mobile Internet users. By 2005 the number of people accessing the Internet through mobile phones and other mobile terminals had reached 69 million, surpassing the 66 million accessing through computer terminals. This trend has continued into 2011 with mobile internet subscribers far exceeding broadband internet subscribers.
i-mode is NTT DoCoMo’s always-on wireless Internet service that made huge waves around the globe when it was released in 1999. The service overtook early ISP market leaders to become the country’s biggest Internet access platform. It shaped the way people interact, impacting Japanese society arguably as much as the personal computer and the Internet have.
DoCoMo is banking on i-mode to help it stay ahead of the game as growing numbers of customers move to smartphones. The company launched an i-mode-specific applications store and began transferring some i-mode features to smartphones. Some of the most popular i-mode services include mobile concierge and a news ticker service. This move will enable DoCoMo to offer developers the combined benefits of smartphones and popular i-mode phones.
DoCoMo created the DoCoMo Market applications store in 2010 to make it easier for customers to find the content and apps they want; the store contains over 700 content sites covering news, video and games. The company believes that the applications space provides mobile network operators with an edge over other players in the value chain since there are certain “value-added functions”, such as billing and authentication that only they can provide. In this way operators will be able to offer unique value to customers and avoid the risk of becoming dumb pipes.
The i-mode DoCoMo market initially offered access to about 1,200 applications, including those developed by all categories of content providers, including individuals. Music sales at i-mode DoCoMo market will be co-managed with RecoChoku, a major mobile music retailer in Japan. At startup, the catalogue will comprise about one million songs and music videos covering a wide range of genres. The book catalogue will launch with a large number of e-book titles, including popular manga, novels and how-to books. Bundled purchases of multiple books will be possible.
For information relating to the telecommunications markets in Japan, see: Japan.
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