According to an article in Businessweek, NTT DoMoCo, the cell phone company that made the wireless internet from a cell phone concept famous due to its success in Japan, is finally making a resurgence after splurging on its 3G implementation and missing out on the initial photo-phones.
The recovery started with a return to basics. After missing out on the initial boom in camera phones, DoCoMo last June launched its first photo handsets, which work on its older, Second Generation, network. Thanks to the flashy design and easy picture and video messaging, DoCoMo has sold 9 million of the phones in the past 10 months. That’s more than twice the number sold in the same period by Japan’s photo-phone pioneer, J-Phone Co., owned by Britain’s Vodafone Group PLC.
I actually read somewhere that some men were using them on stairs and escalators to take photos up women’s skirts. The camera phones were more inconscpicous than a regular camera would be, which made it easier.
Even DoCoMo’s 3G service, Foma, is showing signs of life. After launching the high-speed wireless Net service in October, 2001, an overconfident company president, Keiji Tachikawa, predicted Foma would attract 150,000 users in its first five months. By last March, only half that number had signed up, and many customers griped about spotty coverage and bulky phones that ran out of power in just a few hours.
Tachikawa then swung into action, pressuring handset vendors to develop lighter, longer-lasting models and promising to subsidize their development. This March, DoCoMo unveiled a new $250, 3G video phone that weighs just 130 grams and has enough battery power to run for a week. Aggressive ads push the message that 3G offers the cheapest rates for sending and receiving data. Moreover, the network now provides coverage to 90% of Japan’s population, compared with just 60% a year ago. All of this has attracted 330,000 Foma subscribers; nearly 140,000 signed up in March alone. “We’re at a turning point,” says Atsushi Shimazaki, senior manager of DoCoMo’s marketing division. He predicts Foma will reach 1.5 million users by next March.
If anyone could make 3G service work, it would be DoMoCo. As an investment for the foreseeable future, I have little faith of a strong return. But a camera that sends video and can last a week on its battery sounds like a dream, considering I’m happy if I can last two days with sporadic use on my Motorola T720.
On a semi-related note, I finally cashed in the last of my tech stocks. Buh-bye, Cisco and AOL.