Japan’s cellular phone market has grown faster than many of other markets of its kind in the world. By January 2006, Japan had 90 million subscribers — more than half its entire population. The history of this remarkable achievement represents an unprecedented breakthrough in mobile communications, as well as an unmatched expansion in communications capabilities available to consumers.
Soon after the shift from analog to digital technology in the early 1990s, NTT DoCoMo pioneered the development of non-voice mobile communications with DoPa, Japan’s first mobile «packet» communications service introduced in 1997. Anticipating that the cellular phone market would soon become saturated, and seeing that DoPa was a success, the company stepped up its efforts to build on to the evolution of non-voice mobile communications and develop new, innovative, mobile internet platform for the customers.
NTT DoCoMo had the foresight to create i-mode at a time when the Japanese market for mobile phones was reaching maturity and users were in need of new services. Accordingly, we introduced i-mode in 1999, and it rapidly achieved an unparalleled level of acceptance. Rather than simply generating new revenue for our company in a saturated marketplace, i-mode was a resounding success with customers, redefining the meaning of mobile communications.
The first of its kind, this remarkably convenient new form of mobile service has attracted millions of customers since its debut in February 1999. With i-mode, mobile phone users get easy access to more than 96,000 Internet sites, as well as specialized services such as e-mail, online shopping and banking, ticket reservations, and restaurant advice. Users can access sites from anywhere in Japan, and at unusually low rates, because their charges are based on the volume of data transmitted, not the amount of time spent connected. NTT DoCoMo’s i-mode network structure not only provides access to i-mode and i-mode-compatible content through the Internet, but also provides access through a dedicated leased-line circuit for added security.
i-mode is the platform for mobile communications that has revolutionized the way more than one-fourth of the people in Japan live and work. Six years after its launch, i-mode continues to grow dramatically in popularity, boosted by expanding offerings, and low fees and charges. By January 2006, i-mode was an integral part of the business and personal lives of 45 million NTT DoCoMo customers.