Issue 8: March 2004
In this edition:
Shaping the Future Mobile Information
in mobile communications
2. Living in the Mobile
Information Society, Japan-style
3. Case studies on the mobile information society
4. New ITU-T e-flash
in mobile communications
Where is mobile at?
the end of 2003, there were over 1.35 billion mobile subscribers
worldwide, compared with only 1.2 billion fixed-line users (see Figure
1). Mobile phones had overtaken the number of fixed lines globally by
the end of 2002 and the number of subscribers continues to grow, albeit
more slowly now that many economies are approaching universal coverage.
The rise of mobile telephony to overtake fixed has numerous
implications, but perhaps the most significant relates to access to
basic telecommunication services and information and communication
technologies (ICT). It is noteworthy that this explosion in the use of
mobile telephony has occurred largely irrespective of geographic,
socio-demographic or economic criteria.
|Figure 1 --
Mobile: the new global network?
Fixed lines and mobile subscribers
(millions) and countries in which mobile has overtaken fixed
Mobile market drivers and
Probably the biggest market driver for mobile
phones is “convenience”, but there is a cluster of other factors
that drive take-up, including security, fashion, social contacts and
work requirements. Among mobile data users, the main applications
include ring tones, logos and games. Over time, new services are being
developed that benefit from the higher capabilities of 3G networks, such
as downloading of songs, m-commerce or location-based services (LBS).
Wireless LANs, too, are extending the usefulness of spectrum-based
inhibitors include costs and the ability to control them, health fears
and loss of privacy. The North American market and others that have
persisted in the use of receiving party pays (RPP) continue to lag
behind other economies that use calling party pays (CPP) or, like India,
that have shifted to CPP.
In the developing world, the cost of ownership has
come down considerably but continues to be a deterrent to wider mobile
use in some economies. In Morocco, operators enable contract users to
set a voluntary limit on their monthly usage, but this does not apply to
prepaid users. To extend mobile usage to lower-income users, Médi
Télécom, the new market entrant, offers prepaid cards for DAM 20 (USD
will our lives change in the mobile information society?
are highly differentiated by age, gender and culture. In the future, we
will communicate not only with each other but increasingly with
machines. Early manifestations of this trend can be found in the
development of radio-frequency identification tags (RFID) (see Box 1),
ubiquitous networking, and various trials on human to machine
1 -- RFID tags and shopping in Tokyo’s trendy Roppongi Hills
tags are essentially tiny microchips that act as transponders
(transmitters/responders), continuously waiting for radio
signals to be sent by transceivers, or by RFID readers. When a
transponder receives a radio query, it responds by transmitting
a unique ID code. Most RFID tags are passive, i.e. not battery
powered. The most important functionality of RFID tags is the
ability to track location. RFID tags can cost as little as 0.50
US cents. Some analysts say that RFID will soon replace the
familiar bar code used for retail.
Roppongi Hills in Tokyo, RFID is now used for retail shopping:
the trial of NTT DoCoMo’s “R‑click” service ran from
1 November 2003 to 1 February 2004, delivering information on
users’ locations. DoCoMo issued about 4 500 RFID tags
(embedded in small handheld terminals), which can be attached to
users’ mobile phones. Subscribers can inform the network that
they wish to be located by pushing a button. The small, handheld
device then enables users to receive a wide variety of area
information as they walk around the complex.
Japan case study on “Shaping the Future Mobile Information
How have culture and
etiquette and mobile usage affected each other? It seems that users
experience a liberating and unrestrained tendency to experiment, as
mobile phones increasingly become central part of daily life. One
consequence of this is the rise of a new casualness about space and time
constraints, and about use in public and private spaces and contexts.
and the “portable Internet”
course, the future of wireless communications is not limited to the small mobile devices
of today. One promising concept to help accelerate the narrowing of the digital divide is being promoted in the Republic
of Korea, where some
100 MHz have been set aside in the 2.3 GHz band in order to bridge the gap between short-range wireless LAN technologies and longer-range 3G
technologies. This type of "portable Internet" solution could offer up to
1-2 Mbit/s of bandwidth per user for an estimated USD 15 per month.
Future mobile handsets would work seamlessly with existing wireless
infrastructures This could prove
popular in developing markets where new networks are planned and where
there is a requirement to cover low-density rural populations. The
"Portable Internet" will be the subject of a new ITU Internet
Report, due to be released in the latter half of 2004.
Living in the Mobile Information Society, Japan-style
No one will deny the perception that the Japanese are a highly
technophile people, who are regularly seen sporting the latest
technological gadgets. This holds just as true for the mobile phone. No
tourist visiting Japan can miss the dazzling array of mobile handsets
and accessories on display all over Tokyo, and notably in the
"electric towns" of "Shibuya" and
"Akihabara". Indeed many of those interviewed during the
research phase preceding the publication of this case study pointed to
the cultural factors affecting the take-up of new technologies in the
country. In particular, they highlighted the fact that the Japanese
consumer is informed and demanding, carefully choosing technology for
its innovative quality, functionality, and value for money. At the same
time, Japan is a highly homogeneous society, and consumers are keen on
having the latest gadgets, in order not to be outdone by their
neighbours and friends. Therefore, the threshold for a product to hit
the mass market is much lower in Japan than in other countries. If a
service or technology reaches 15 per cent penetration, it is well on its
way to becoming a mass-market product.
In terms of manufacturing and distribution, Japan is famous for
developments in miniaturization and product packaging. Foreign
pharmaceutical firms, for instance, face significant challenges when
distributing products in Japan, due to the strict packaging requirements
imposed on them. The look and design of a product are key marketing
elements, particularly for mobile phones, and the discriminating
Japanese consumer takes these into account when purchasing electronics.
Given the country’s success in miniaturization and robotics, it is not
surprising that the penetration of home electronics is quite high in
Japan, with the notable exception of the larger sized colour
Another important trend in Japan is the use of mobile phones as a
fashion accessory. Users have access to a wide variety of colourful tags
and stickers that can be used to personalize mobile phones, in line with
the latest trend and fashion of the day. Handset replacements are very
common in Japan. According to a survey conducted by Video Research in
July 2002, 63 per cent of users replace their mobile devices within
two years. Young students have an even shorter replacement cycle: almost
half of those surveyed reported an annual replacement cycle. 40 per cent
of those who replaced their handset at least once, reported one of the
following reasons for their latest replacement: a desire to have the
latest model or service, or the fact that the design or function was
"out of date". Mobile phones have become such trendsetters in
Japan that KDDI has recently released a "retro" design, with a
certain hint of the past, in order to appeal to the younger generation.
The slim-line phone is known as "Infobar" and comes in three
different colours, each with a different catchy name.
There is a general misconception that Japanese people use their
mobile phone mostly while commuting. In fact, a large majority (46.2 per
cent) of Japanese use their mobile phone at home to make calls (Figure
1, left chart). Similarly, although some consider that the most frequent
use of the mobile Internet browser in Japan is on commuter trains and
public transport, the reality is quite different: a survey conducted by
MoCoBe reveals that the use of the mobile Internet in Japan is highest
at home and this is confirmed by Video Research’s survey in 2002
(Figure 1, right chart). In fact the peak time period for browser
usage is after working hours, between 19:00 and 23:00 on weekdays and
21:00-23:00 on weekends.
1: User location when using browser functions and making phone
calls from mobile phones
Based on a survey conducted by Video Research Ltd in July
Video Research Limited, 2002.
Another interesting aspect of mobile phone use in Japan is the
portability and proximity of the device to the human user. According to
the Mobile Content Forum, 70 per cent of Japanese mobile users keep
their mobile within one meter of their body during the day time, and 40
per cent during the night, most likely not far from their pillow. In
this respect, the mobile phone has become somewhat an extension of
one’s physical self, intrinsically linked to identity and
accessibility. Box 1 describes a day in the life of a typical 22-year
old Japanese and her mobile phone.
Box 1 A
day in the life of 22-year old Kyoko and her keitai
fictional story based on the observations of authors and interviewees
while researching this case study
a 22 year-old woman works at an office in the city. Kyoko woke up at
6.30 AM to the sound of her mobile phone. She checks her keitai
(the Japanese word for mobile phone) immediately for new mails: 10
e-mails from friends/family and 5 SPAM messages. Her best friend
Noriko suggests a new movie tonight. Her newly met boyfriend Takeshi
asks for a date over the weekend. Her sister Kaori, currently studying
in USA, asks for easy Japanese recipes. Her mother in her hometown
asking how she is. Her father on a business trip wants to know what
souvenirs she would like. After acquiring a mobile phone, she has more
had more contact with her father and he is so happy that he continues
to subsidize her mobile bills. Kyoko then starts here commute to work.
her time on the train, she replies to most of her messages.
She interrupted her mobile game, after she received a call.
Before she boarded the train, however, she had set her mobile to
‘manner mode’ so that it didn’t ring. Her mobile also has a
sticky film covering, an accessory for the LCD display. This film
covering is recently a popular item to avoid a snooping by others
especially in the very crowded trains. It means that mobile screens
can only be viewed by the person who is facing the phone directly, and
not by people on either side of the phone.
Kyoko heard from her friends that a new ringing tone of a
popular Japanese song has just been released, so she immediately
downloads it to her mobile phone for a small fee. Kyoko works as a
secretary for a worldwide trading company.
Typically, she sits in front of her PC in the office, but she
communicates with her friends only through her mobile phone, because
she doesn’t have computer at home.
her day at work, she goes shopping and replaces her mobile phone with
a newer model, one that has a very secure system with fingerprint
identification. Now, she can assign different fingers for accessing
different data: for instance, the right forefinger for Noriko’s
folder, the left middle finger for Takeshi’s folder and so on.
Another attractive function that Kyoko enjoys mobile chatting: this
allows a series of message to be exchanged in the form of near
real-time dialogue similar to Internet chatting software. She did end
up going to the movie with Noriko, after buying both tickets
electronically through her keitai. She did not find the new movie
interesting. So in the theatre, she wrote a few more e-mails and sent
pictures to friends with her new mobile handset….
Japan case study on “Shaping the Future Mobile Information Society”.
3. Case studies on the
mobile information society
The four countries selected for
the case studies (Korea, Japan, Morocco and Norway) each represented
early adopters of mobile in their regions:
Republic of Korea: Mobile is continuing to grow by around 160’000
subscribers per month, but the fixed-line service has started to decline
in terms of subscriber numbers. Based on CDMA-1x technologies, Korea is
an early market leader in 3G use. As of June 2003, just over 36 per cent
of all Korean mobile subscribers were mobile Internet users with usage
levels peaking at over 80 per cent among Junior High School students.
Particularly popular applications in Korea include karaoke songs and TV
soap operas delivered to mobile phones.
Japan: The switchover from fixed-lines to mobile took place
around the end of 2000. Japan’s major contribution to a "more
mobile world" is possibly its early leadership in mobile data
services, initially through i-mode, and latterly through the adoption of
3G mobile (IMT-2000). As at December 2003, there were some 13.8 million
3G users of whom over 90 per cent were using CDMA 1-X systems and the
remainder using wideband CDMA. Japan’s leadership in this field has
given it an early insight into the use of video-telephony (real-time)
and video-messaging (store and forward) over mobile phones. Vodafone’s
"Happy Time" is an example of the former while NTT DoCoMo’s "i-motion
mail" is an example of the latter.
Morocco: Mobile overtook fixed in August 2000. The critical
factors in its growth included the introduction of prepaid cards in late
1999 and the market entry of a second GSM operator in April 2000. As at
the end of 2003, mobile user numbers (at around a quarter of the
population) now exceed fixed-line subscribers by more than five-fold.
But even though fixed-line subscriber numbers are declining, they still
account for two-thirds of total revenue.
Norway: A head start in the 1980s (with NMT; an analogue
mobile service) was followed up with aggressive rollout of GSM in the
1990s. By the time mobile overtook fixed, in mid-2000, penetration of
both services was over 70 per 100 inhabitants. The volume of voice
traffic has actually fallen since 2000, but the shifts in usage—from
fixed to mobile, and from voice to data—have helped to sustain
revenue. Use of SMS (short message service), in particular, tripled
between 1999 and 2002 and now stands at an average of over 600 per user
India: Despite a late start, India has recently started to add
new mobile subscribers at a rate of around 2.5 million per month. Key
factors in triggering this turnaround have been the introduction of
increased competition, a move from receiving party pays (RPP) to calling
party pays (CPP) and the introduction of a unified licensing system. The
combination of these factors has helped to reduce calling rates to below
2 US cents per minute, making them among the lowest in the world. This
would not have been possible in fixed-line networks, or in earlier
generations of mobile networks, given the higher capital and operating
expenditures that would have been necessary. In such a large economy,
the average margin per user (AMPU) can be just as important as the
more-commonly quoted average revenue per user (ARPU).
Comparative study of mobile data users in Hong Kong SAR and
Beijing, China: Although the former are more numerous (per 100
inhabitants) and have longer experience of using mobile communications,
they are actually less likely to use SMS. Part of the reason is
due to the fact that Chinese users have an aversion to talking to
machines, and are therefore more likely to use SMS to check that their
interlocutor is available, or to substitute for the voice call.
•Developments in the youth markets in the Philippines and the
United States: In the Philippines, the peak usage of picture
messaging is among 17-20 year-olds, ring tone downloading amongst 21-24
year olds, and downloads of news stories among 25-28 year-olds. Under
16s favour horoscopes and jokes. In the United States, young girls are
using SMS to extend their social life beyond bedtime.
Excerpt from the Chairman's
resources on the topic are available at the project website: http://www.itu.int/futuremobile
4. New ITU-T e-flash
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