20051113

3Greenfield Japan

So Livedoor eventually didn't get a 3G license in Japan (see "Livedoor to incumbents : you've got mail"), and the winners are IPMobile, Softbank BB & eAccess. Actually, I'm not so sure one can talk about "winners"...

  • IPMobile are already looking for M-VNOs to fill their TD-CDMA pipes (Roll-out : 3,000 BS by end 2007, 8,500 by end 2012 - QoS : 5.2 Mbps downlink, 858 Kbps uplink - TTM october 2006). M-VNOs can be turned down by DoCoMo (network saturation) and Vodafone KK (coverage), but will they really invest in UMTS TDD instead of IPMobile rivals' W-CDMA / HSDPA or KDDI's CDMA2000 ? The good news for IPWireless is their orders are up. The bad news is they might have to pay for them.
  • eAccess branded their greenfield MNO eMobile, which sounds like immobile (fixed, unmovable). The fact is they don't seem in such a hurry : they didn't even complete their business plan before getting the license and their TTM is only March 2007 for a regional launch (National coverage is supposed to be completed by March 2008). eMobile aim at 5M subs after 5 years of operation but even after purchasing AOL Japan last year, eAccess only claim 2.1M subs - besides, dial-up still represents one third of their turnover. TBS (Tokyo Broadcasting Systems, Inc) bring an interesting media / broadband / broadcasting flavor, but they just take 14% of the responsibilities. New partners are welcome but who wants to fight with DoCoMo at home, where even Master Voda struggles for his life ? If no one shows up soon, at least there will be some spectrum for sale.
  • Among the three, Softbank looks like the little pig with the house made of stone : if the Yahoo! deals were already good clicks, Japan Telecom brought actual mortar and unlike Livedoor's Takafumi Horie, Masayoshi Son is now part of the Japanese establishment. TTM is not as aggressive as for IPMobile and one can smile at BB Mobile's "mobile triple play" (voice, video and data !) trials with LG Electronics and Nortel ("pre-WiMAX (802.16e)" + HSDPA), but no one should take TV Bank for a new gadget : this new venture will open early 2006 in East-Asia's leading hubs (Beijing, Shanghai, Seoul, Taipei and Tokyo). And beyond Japan, Son opened a promising front in China through Taiwan.

NTT DoCoMo are claiming they fear no one and they could be right. But the chances of disruption remain unnerving enough.



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