The Japanese Mobile Market

    March 9, 2007

What’s different about the Japanese mobile market is that innovation is moving toward business models and marketing tactics instead of technical features and functions.

"The explosion of non-official mobile content Web sites is causing the sun to set on the i-mode business model of a dominant mobile carrier selling incremental content and services to its user base," says John du Pre Gauntt, eMarketer senior analyst and the author of the new Japan Wireless: Marketing to a Mobile Society report. "Flat-rate pricing for 3G services and a broadening of the scope of industries with a strong interest in mobile services means that mobile marketing and advertising has become all the more important in Japan."

Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC), says that the number of mobile subscribers has been slowly increasing over the past year. In February 2007, Japan surpassed the 100 million mark for mobile subscribers. This means that the majority of the country has access to wireless services and only small segments of the population are not served by mobile services.

According to MIC figures, the number of 3G subscribers for all carriers now is over 60 million. With full penetration of mobile, wireless accounts for much of the Internet-based activity of the Japanese public.

eMarketer estimates that approximately 70 percent of the Japanese population, or 89 million people, is connected to the Internet. Out of that Internet population, mobile was slightly more preferred than the PC.

"Japan’s situation is well advanced compared with mobile markets in North America and many parts of Europe, where the primary value proposition seems to revolve around a singular technical niche, such as the music phone, TV phone or e-mail phone," says Mr. Gauntt. "Yet all major advanced markets seem to be converging toward a kind of maturity beyond novelty features."

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