The day before the Finland-Japan Ubiquitous Society Conference in Tokyo, I briefed the top-management (CEO, CTO and other top managers) of TeliaSonera, on October 26, 2006.
The next day, October 27, 2006, the Finland-Japan Ubiquitous Society Conference was held. Tero Ojanpera, Exec VP and CTO of NOKIA, gave an overview of NOKIA’s vision of communications, other speakers and panelists included Juho Lipsanen, Finland CEO of TeliaSonera, KDDI Chairman Murakami.
Panel discussion with TeliaSonera CEO Juho Lipsanen and KDDI-Chairman Murakami.
SoftBank acquired Vodafone KK for about US$ 15 billion, essentially with a very large loan. Thus SoftBank is under enormous pressure to succeed in Japan’s very competitive mobile phone market, where Number Portability was introduced on October 24, 2006.
Recent subscriber number statistics and our observations indicate that SoftBank looks likely to succeed in turning round the mobile phone company they acquired from Vodafone and renamed Softbank Mobile.
During the week of October 24, 2006, when number portability was introduced, Masayoshi Son introduced a firework of new pricing plans – on the surface these pricing plans all advertise “Zero Yen”, ie nominally the price of buying mobile phones from SoftBank appears to be ZERO.
Of course, with a consortium of lenders anxious to be repaid, SoftBank has no possibility of giving away mobile phones for free. In actual fact, our analysis shows that SoftBank at the end of the day actually increased prices slightly. SoftBank introduced a series of pricing plans, where customers essentially purchase the mobile phone handsets under an installment plan running over variable periods, but typically 48 months, with zero down payment at the time of initial purchase. So in fact, the terminals are not sold for ZERO YEN at all – this issue led to an investigation by Japan’s Fair Trade Commission.
As is usual practice in Japan, the Fair Trade Commission did not single out Softbank, but critized each one of the major mobile operators for different unfair advertising practices, and encouraged each mobile operator to be more accurate in advertising discount plans.
SoftBank got away lightly – the image below shows on the left hand side the initial ZERO YEN announcement, which a few days later was hidden by a more careful explanation… (the Zero Yen poster can still be seen shining through the paper above…)
Contrary to SoftBank‘s “Zero YEN” campaign, which plays with the fire of a price war, KDDI centered AU’s number portability campaign on “customer satisfaction” emphasizing services. The “customer satisfaction campaign” uses a symbolic customer as the campaign theme:
SoftBank replaced Vodafone-Live! by Yahoo!-Keitai. SoftBank phones have a “Y!”-button which links to Yahoo!-keitai. Yahoo-Keitai! offers a list of official sites, new services (e.g. a new communicator service), and also access to free mobile internet sites through the YAHOO directory, as well as access to YAHOO services, such as YAHOO-auctions.
YAHOO!-keitai is a fresh start to revive the mobile internet service, previously known as Vodafone-Live!, and which had been losing market share to competitors i-Mode and EZweb for about 4 years. Previous to the Vodafone-Live! period, Jsky had been successful in gaining market share both from i-Mode and EZweb.
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Toru Arakawa, CEO and Founder of ACCESS, gave a keynote speech at this years CEATEC show in Makuhari on October 6, 2006, outlining ACCESS strategies.
ACCESS is the maker of NetFront browsers and other software at the core of DoCoMo’s i-mode. ACCESS acquired PalmSource and is developing the Access Linux Platform (ALP) based on the PalmSource acquisition.
With ALP, ACCESS is planning to deliver a full software stack for mobile phones based on Linux. In his speach Toru Arakawa outlined company strategy also beyond mobile phones to multimedia home centers.
Looks to me like ACCESS is shaping itself to compete with APPLE and Microsoft both in the mobile phone and the home entertainment markets.