Paying with the mobile phone in shops and trains, unlocking doors, security check in offices, paying the air ticket and checking in, all just by waving the wallet phone close to a reader/writer unit is addictive – and daily life in Japan today.
SUICA in Tokyo, Octopus in Hong Kong and Oyster in London are great success stories but they use different and incompatible technologies and software.
For mobile payments to take off globally, global interoperability is a must.
NXP (Philips’ former semiconductor division) and SONY on November 20, 2006 announced a cooperation, which will bring global interoperability to wallet phones and mobile payment.
KDDI is unique among mobile operators in creating value from design for phones with the “au design project”. Creating value for which consumers are willing to pay premium prices is a key to success in the rapidly growing global US$ 150 Billion mobile phone business.
au design project 2006:
The KDDI Designing Center showed the exhibition “TRILOGY”, displaying some results of the “au design project 2006”. The three concept phones are (from left to right):
Eurotechnology’s CEO was invited to attend Ericsson’s Strategy & Technology Summit in Tokyo on November 15, 2006.
Ericsson’s CEO, Carl-Henric Svanberg, Ericsson CSO – Chief of Strategy, Japan-CEO Rory Buckley and other Ericsson top management presented Ericsson’s strategy and vision. About 100 investors and investment bank analysts were invited to attend.
I was given the opportunity to share the lunch table with CEO Carl-Henric Svanberg and had a fascinating discussion (some of his comments flowed into our company’s project report to the European Union on benchmarking Japan’s vs EU’s fixed and mobile telecommunications and broadband sectors).
With some of the largest and most advanced mobile investments, Japan’s mobile market is one of the most important markets globally for Ericsson. Recently Ericsson won major contracts from SoftBank and eMobile.
Mobile operators expand into mobile payments and mobile credit
Mobile phones use qr codes for payments
Japan’s mobile operators DoCoMo, KDDI/AU and SoftBank are expanding their business into mobile payment and mobile credit, traditionally the realm of banks, credit card companies, financial institutions and cash. With the bubble/post-bubble bad loans problem largely resolved and the mega-mergers completed, Japan’s banks are now ready again to develop new business.
Customer’s camera phone reads the barcode or QR-code on an utility bill or mailorder invoice, and forwards secure payment instructions to the customer’s bank account.
What is the expected impact?
Expect positive impact on Mizuho’s earnings
Today such payments are typically made by walking to the nearest convenience store: expect negative impact on convenience stores which handle much of the barcode based bill payments today
Expect additional competitors with alternative methods to compete with Mizuho in the domain of mobile phone based bill payments
Mobile number portability was the major factor forcing Vodafone out of Japan
Mobile number portability: the first challenge for SoftBank Mobile
Mobile number portability (MNP) was introduced in Japan on October 24, 2006. Mobile number portability means that Japanese cell-phone subscribers (excluding PHS subscribers) can move their subscriptions between DoCoMo, KDDI/AU and Softbank while keeping the same phone number. However, number portability does not mean email portability, or portability of purchased content which in Japan is normally subject to strict digital rights management and normally cannot be transfered from one subscription to another.
SoftBank went into the MNP battle with fireworks of campaigns
The “Zero YEN” campaign plays with the fire of a price war. As shown in the photograph below, from October 24, 2006, SoftBank stores prominently displayed “Zero Yen” prices for all handsets and many different services, creating the superficial impression that suddenly all SoftBank handsets and services are free of charge, which of course is not the case. This advertising trick led to an enquiry by Japan’s fair trade commission. The fair trade commission later admonished SoftBank saying that some aspects of the campaign were misleading – however the fair trade commission at the same time admonished all other cell phone operators and PHS operator WILLCOM for different types of misleading advertising. SoftBank came away quite lightly – however the photograph below shows, that the ZERO YEN signs were covered up (and are still visible below the hastily applied cover sheet of paper).
The “unexpected campaign”: Softbank introduced an “unexpected” Gold Plan, which offers essentially flat fee voice calls under certain conditions, but restricted in time and length, and also restricted to calls between SoftBank subscribers only. Since SoftBank only represents about 15% of Japan’s mobile phone market, it is much easier for SoftBank to offere flat on-network plans, than for DoCoMo, since for DoCoMo a much larger ratio of calls would fall under the on-network plan. DoCoMo and KDDI therefore did not respond with any flat voice on-network plans.
SoftBank’s computer systems were either overloaded, or broke down under the load of MNP, leading to irritated complaints by KDDI and DoCoMo, and some damage to the new SoftBank brand.
SoftBank Zero Yen campaign
This photograph shows SoftBank’s Zero Yen Campaign (left photograph). AFter a few days Japan’s Fair Trade Commission started to investigate SoftBank (and all other mobile operators) and admonished them for misleading advertising practices – as a consequences the original Zero Yen poster is covered up (right hand photograph):
Preview – SoftBank today and 300 year vision report: