Japan five years ahead in mobile services

When it comes to mobile services, Japan is five years ‘ahead of Europe – even though operators in both regions introduced mobile Internet services at roughly the same time in the late 1990s.

That’s the view of Forrester Research, which says 52% of Japanese regularly surf the mobile web against just 10% of European users. It seems we’re happy enough with SMS and voice; 39% of European mobile users who have never used any mobile internet services don’t see any value in them.

The researchers see a number of reasons for the contrast.

• Japanese users got hooked on email, especially i-mode’s i-mail, while the Europeans went for SMS.

• The Japanese model draws in content providers – anyone can build an independent i-mode site and take the bulk of revenues generated (91%). In Europe, it’s difficult to set up an m-site and operators portals keep at least 40% of content revenues.

• Japanese telcos have less competition (Japan has 100m mobile users and just three networks), more contract customers who exhibit more brand loyalty, and fewer independent sales channels.

• Cross-channel usage is more common, with integrated PC and mobile websites and scannable quick response (QR) codes.

Forrester thinks operators have to wean users off simple services that work out-of-the-box by providing better education and point-of-sale support. Specific suggestions include more hands-on training and live handsets trials for resellers, and in-store workshops using mobile Internet experts.

The content issue is also important, especially location-relevant services. Forrester also notes that flat-rate tariffs would help to encourage use.

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