While it is certainly true that PDC is a crappy technology (and indeed its
inefficiency is a further impetus to DoCoMo's move to W-CDMA), it has had an
upside. Because all of the intelligence in the system is in the network,
rather than the handsets, the handsets can be substantially smaller and
hence have substantially better battery life. A PDC-P radio unit has
substantially fewer transistors than a GSM/GPRS one. Conversely, of course,
handsets sold in the USA frequently (how quaint!) have an analogue unit
included, which drives handset size up and battery life down.
The downside is PDC can't really do roaming, *even if there were any other
PDC networks*. But then Europeans can have an exagerated view of the
importance of roaming. It is certainly essential in Europe, given national
operators and frequent travel within the continent. In the US there are
c.3,500 licence regions and anything up to 30,000 licence units, so roaming
is important there (which makes the failure to mandate a technology standard
even more misguided, but that's another argument). But for Japan? How much
revenue is being foregone? From the point of view of Japanese operators,
what really matters is not how many Japanese go abroad, but how much roaming
revenue they are losing from not having foreigners roaming onto *their*
networks. And I suspect the answer (this summer apart) is 'not much'.
As a further observation on the current superiority of Japanese handsets,
manufacturing capacity of colour LCDs is a big issue. There will only be
50m-odd handset-sized colour LCDs manufactured this year, up substantially
from last year - of these 30m will stay in South Korea and Japan. This is
not mature technology, and yield rates, while acceptable if you're
manufacturing for the Japanese domestic market, have not hitherto been high
enough to support the volumes that would be needed to put a 120x160 colour
TFT in every handset sold in Europe.
Looking at data services, it is undeniably true that mobile data happened in
a smoother and more coherent manner because of DoCoMo's market power.
Because it had 62% market share when it launched i-mode, it has able to
define a model that would be followed. Vodafone has controlled subs
totalling about 24.5% of the European subscriber base (29% if you include
France). So while they have rather greater buying power than DoCoMo, they
don't have the ability to say 'stop arguing and make the services work'.
This is why we have 'm-services', and BREW, and all sorts of other chaos.
This is where, I think, Benjamin and Curt are talking at cross-purposes:
DoCoMo adopted a flawed network technology (albeit one with some incidental
benefits, as mentioned above). It would probably have been better for
Japanese consumers if DoCoMo (and the others) had adopted GSM. If it had,
Japan would have larger but cheaper handsets (still with colour screens),
and call charges would be substantially lower, both because the network
equipnment would be cheaper, and because the greater network efficiency
would mean that operators were not obliged to constrain usage through prices
to quite the same degree. However, this argument has nothing to do with
DoCoMo's creation of a coherent, smoothly functioning and pretty-much open
mobile data services model.
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Received on Mon Jun 17 11:16:59 2002