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Cell Phones: Japan vs. the United States 539

Posted by michael
from the ma-bell-knows-what's-best-for-you dept.
Stirland writes "Cell phones/Connectivity: Japan and the United States: Worlds Apart on Wireless. Interesting analysis of the economic and cultural reasons for why the Japanese kick Americans' butts when it comes to wireless cell phone technology and usage."
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Cell Phones: Japan vs. the United States

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  • by IronTek (153138) on Sunday June 30, 2002 @06:56PM (#3797200) Homepage
    Everytime I read how behind the United States is compared to Finland, Japan, etc., it upsets me that one simple concept is rarely, if ever, mentioned..

    The United States has a very, very, very large land mass compared to Japan or Finland, or any other country in Europe that has cooler cell phone technology than we do.

    It's simply very, very expensive and time consuming for companies to roll out services that *might* get the public interested...

    So while I would very much like to have video on my phone or simply be able to buy a Dr Pepper out of a soda machine, the sheer size of the United States makes it difficult for such widespread agreements on standards or progress in new technology...
    • Yes, compared to Finland, the US of A have a very big landmass. But compared to Finland, they also have a lot more inhabitants. So what really counts is the population density. I don'T have the numbers, but I don't think the difference will be very big then.

      I think the 3 countries in the world with the biggest cell phone usage (as by percentage of ppl owning a cell phone) are Sweden, Finland and Austria. Both Sweden and Finland are only lightly populated in their northern parts, and Austria is covered by a lot of mountains. I've been to two of these countries, namely Sweden and Austria, and the networks are great. Even at the top of some mountain, you have clear quality.

      The neat thing, however, is the pricing, this is where some countries are really ahead. For example, if you are a company, some providers don't charge at all for calls within the company, all you pay is the monthly fee. That's really a big advantage for companies.

      There are even similar offerings for private persons, ie, an Austrian provider let's you phone within their network for free during night hours if you've charged your prepad phone with at least 25 within the last 30 days.

      • your numbers (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mattdm (1931)
        July 2001 est. population density (people per sq/km of land):

        Finland: 16.9
        Sweden: 21.6
        Japan: 415.0
        US: 30.4

        Of course, as you say, the density of major urban areas is in many ways more important than overall density. But it's still worth noting the difference in Japan -- I'd count a 13.7x difference as significant enough to have an effect.
      • It has nothing to do with population density. It's about infrastructure. In a relatively small country, like Japan for instance, the amount of cell towers and communication relays is vastly reduced by the small size of the country. In the US, it takes many more of these installations to cover the distance. (So whereas a handful of relays could cover the whole of Japan, it would require much higher numbers to provide the same wervice in the US) Also, in the US the curvature of the earth is an issue. A wireless call from New York to Seattle must go from the phone to the relay tower, to a satellite, to another relay tower, then to the recipients phone. In Japan, a wireless call doesn't necesarily have to leave the earth. A call could go from a phone to just one cell tower and back to the recipient's phone. So as you can see, the logistics of covering a large landmass create a multitude of problems.
        • A wireless call from New York to Seattle must go from the phone to the relay tower, to a satellite, to another relay tower, then to the recipients phone.
          All telcos use point to point microwaves and buried cables (copper or fibre) to span large distances. SONET and SDH are used as the central "backbone". The telcos decide whether it goes over a satellite or not. Are you saying all calls from LA to NY go over satellite? Only if the telco is too lazy to lay cable or decides satellite would be cheaper.

          Satellite has advantages over cable - cable is a big investment, and when you eventually finish laying the cable the city might have moved or become a ghost town like Atlantic City. The telcos use actuaries to make these risk assessments.

        • This isn't how mobile networks work - they consist of a huge 'backhaul' network linking cell towers, which finally terminates in a fixed-line network, usually optical these days. Calls within a single country or within Europe are very unlikely to use satellite, due to the added latency - there is already some significant latency due to the way voice is chopped up into small frames by the mobile phone's radio interface, and by transcoding between various voice-compression regimes.

          The curvature of the earth is of absolutely no significance - what matters is latency, bandwidth and costs, and for everywhere outside the radio access network fixed lines are superior for these factors.

    • another thing to consider is that we really dont need all the extra crap:

      "I'm very disappointed to see that the majority of phones in the U.S. are black and white and four lines (of text)," said Satoshi Nakajima, chief executive officer of UIEvolution, a Bellevue company that develops software for Japanese wireless companies. "Then you'll never succeed."


      well it depends on how you define success. if you define success as video at 1fps, then yes we will never succeed. if you are trying to give people phone access, then four lines of text are enough to succeed. personally i dont want a hot pink phone, with a hello kitty theme and a ringer that playes the theme from shaft. i really dont need the aformentioned phone with streaming video.. it's simply not necessary... for me.

      just because someone has different needs doesnt mean the have failed. i guess you could say linux has failed since it's not running on the hello kitty phone.. i would say it's a success since it runs my webserver very well.
      • "just because someone has different needs doesnt mean the have failed."

        I agree with that completely. The whole tone of that article is that the U.S. is failing to keep up with Japan when in fact we don't have the need to keep up. Our phones work just fine. We don't need LCD displays that can show DivX movies downloaded from ph0n3.l33t-pr0n.net. I don't own a cell phone only because I don't need one, but I know that they can be very useful in emergencies and for business. People tend to forget that there was a time not very long ago when there were no cell phones. We still got along fine. I would argue that anything beyond standard phone/pager functionality is extra and not necessary for anyone. Just my opinion.
    • Well, most of you bring up interesting points about population density, but don't forget...in many parts of the country, the population isn't all that dense...yet to get nationwide coverage, you still have to build cell towers/stations every couple of miles...thus, we're back to the sheer size of the United States being a large problem...
    • by EvilNTUser (573674) on Sunday June 30, 2002 @07:34PM (#3797338)

      The United States has a very, very, very large land mass compared to Japan or Finland, or any other country in Europe that has cooler cell phone technology than we do.

      IMHO that's not the issue. First of all, Finland has a population of roughly five million with a density of about 17 people per square kilometer.

      Why's that important? Because if these services can be rolled out (profitably) in Finland, then the following technique could be used in the US:

      1. Define one single national standard.
      2. Try it out in one city that has an insane population density.
      3. If it's profitable, start expanding to other places based on the already defined national standard. Each and every company could compete using the same standard.

      Instead, this is what I think has happened:

      1. Company A decides to implement a standard of its own for voice calls. Company B does the same.
      2. Very few people buy phones because of major interoperability issues. (This is not the case in Finland, to continue using it as an example. A Finnish GSM phone will work anywhere in Europe, and around most of the world. Virtually everyone has one.)
      3. Because of the slow growth, a mobile phone culture hasn't yet formed in the U.S, slowing down the growth even more. Thus operators have less resources to implement new features, and even if they did they'd probably be proprietary, worsening the already bad situation.

      What we need is a worldwide standard that everyone would adhere to. What we have now is a bunch of companies trying to out-Microsoft each other. And yes, I do realize that's easier said than done, but it should at least be given some thought.

      • It has nothing to do with population density. It's about infrastructure. In a relatively small country, like Finland for instance, the amount of cell towers and communication relays is vastly reduced by the small size of the country. In the US, it takes many more of these installations to cover the distance. It's an issue of cost to the developer. And yes I agree that a worldwide standard would be an ideal way to begin solving these problems. (kind of lofty though, isn't it? worldwide standards are merely pipe dreams. Imagine if someone had thought of creating a standard with power, and every device/appliance you had would work in any other country without converters and adapters. Or if everyone drove on the same side of the road,or if every CPU fit the same slot/socket, or if railways across the world were consistent in width and gauge. This would just never happen, everyone always thinks that their own method has it's advantages over the other options, and agreements on these matters are hard to come by. The world has a tough time agreeing with itself, and thus why we have war. ) the fact of the matter is that settling on a standard halts development to improve on what is already existing. If perhaps we had a worldwide standard, why would anyone bother to develop a newer, possibly better technology? Progress would grind to a halt and stagnate.
        • It IS about population density - with enough population density AND a suitable standard, it's easy for a number of operators to deploy compatible networks. This is exactly what happened in Europe.

          And by the way, there is already a world standard for mobile phones - GSM has over 70% of the world market by number of subscribers, and it works in virtually every country you can name, including the US and Canada as well as most of Europe, Asia, Middle East, Africa and Australasia.

          Another example is TCP/IP - there were many competing network protocol stacks in the 70s and 80s, but IP has won out, resulting in a hugely competitive market for equipment and networks.

          Standards don't necessarily impede development - for all its benefits, GSM will soon be superseded by W-CDMA, a 3G standard that will be implemented by most GSM operators.

    • There is another reason (and a half) too.

      In Europe we have one digital cellular technology: GSM. This means that I can use my phone on any network. The R&D cost per phone is lowered and the competition is increased.

      To some extent, I believe, the same is true in Japan, with J-Phone and DoCoMo sharing the same technology. (And with DoCoMo being, by a mile, the largest cell phone company in the world.)

      If, in the UK, I wish to change my operator, I can go to one of the other three 'real' operators or one of a couple of virtual ones (which lease capacity off the real networks.) This has created price and service competition. That I can take my number with me between operators helps too.

      And the 'half'... easy, I don't pay to recieve calls. There is no incentive, other that avoiding my ex-girlfriend, to turn my phone off.

      *r
    • except now the entire rest of the world -- asia, europe, australia, have better phone systems than the US. So while individual countries may be small, the sum is a much much larger landmass with much much better phones.
    • that's crap.

      mobile phone technology hasn't succeeded in america because american wireless operators have failed to understand the benefits of a standard. the fact is that my gsm phone will work around the developed world (and some days i feel the need to explicitly include the words "and here in ireland..."). if i see a good deal on a newer mobile phone i can buy it and take my gsm chip out of my old phone and stick it in my new phone. i can easily send text messages to my friends with no concern as to who their network provider is. i can take a call without worrying about how much it will cost me.

      mobile phone technology is archaic, fractured, poor, and a national disgrace. the wireless companies in america were short-sighted and greedy. the best thing that could happen to them (at least for the american people) would be for european and other wireless providers to come in, buy them, and sort them all out.
      • Don't we wish. :D

        The largest cellular phone company in the US is Verizon. It is owned in part by various companies, but mostly by Vodafone Group (UK), which is the largest cellular company in the world, bigger even than NTT DoCoMo. Vodafone's wireless companies use GSM exclusively... except for its holdings in the US, Mexico, and China, where it uses CDMA. Sprint PCS is the other CDMA company in the US, probably soon to be bought out by Verizon.

        VoiceStream/T-Mobile is the largest GSM-exclusive company in the US, though it also has the smallest marketshare of the six national providers. It has GSM in almost all major markets, California being a notable exception. To make matters worse, in the US, we use GSM 1900, incompatible with the rest of the world; one of the best features that GSM could advertise, "Free world roaming, one phone #", therefore doesn't work quite so well.

        The second largest cellular phone company in the US is Cingular. SBC has a controlling stake in the company, and BellSouth owns the rest. Unlike Verizon, therefore, the entire company is American. In most markets, Cingular uses TDMA; that's as much digital (pardon my analogies) as Windows 95 is 32-bit. But GSM is available nationally. Any market where VoiceStream doesn't have a network, Cingular does.

        Cingular is gradually converting its entire network to GSM, and will hopefully be providing all new customers with GSM by, IIRC, January 2003. Also, Cingular convinced VoiceStream to enter into a European-style shared network agreement, so that VoiceStream could provide service in California/Nevada, and Cingular could provide service in NYC/Northern New Jersey, without building any new towers.

        There's also AT&T Wireless; there is a rumor that ATTWS will soon buy Cingular, and keep its 100%-GSM strategy for the new company, and all evidence (mainly financial) suggests that the rumor is true. And finally, there's Nextel. It uses a custom technology (iDEN) and caters to business users who use their cellphone enough to warrant a $150/mo plan and want to-the-second billing. It is essentially a niche carrier, with very loyal customers, and as many of those customers travel the world, it may soon switch to GSM itself.

        Vodafone has repeatedly pressured Verizon to switch to GSM; its efforts have been unsuccessful so far.

        So much for Europe coming in and making things better.
      • You are sooo right..

        WAP is such a disaster because it is not a standard at all. Each phone and each service has
        enough random incompatibilities that the chance of
        successfully reaching a given WAP site is about 30% or less. In Japan, all imode sites are
        essentially compatible, plus cHTML is a much better page description language than WAP for phones. WAP has basically torpedoed the entire
        cell phone industry in the US. Thanks guys!

    • This is not a problem. Similar problems were experienced in Poland about 8 years ago when GSM networks were deployed. Standard procedure was to first cover the most populated and rich areas - this would be Bay Area and New York. DCS (GSM 1800) system is used - it needs more base stations but has more network capability. Then after generating some revenue, suburban areas are covered using GSM 900 (less base stations needed). The phones are compatible with both frequencies. Rinse, lather, repeat. Area is not a problem.

      ,p>The second solution to area problem is internal roaming (roaming is a GSM term for using phone in other network that the one the phone is subscribed to). A few companies divide the area and roll out networks, then they deploy roaming so one's phone may work equally in all the networks (in GSM this works seamlessly and except of another network prompt and a small raming icon on the display, there's no difference). Obviously the companies would have been forced to do so by FTC, but such solutions work in Sweden very well.

      Also, you don't roll out a service then wait for the people to come. You advertise it. It works in much poorer countries like Poland. Cell phones are big here.So why won;t USians want to use cell phones? I have no idea.

      I consider my cell phone one of my basic tools. I talk to people with it. My servers report status via SMSes so I know if they are OK. I can pay for things with it (with cooperation of my bank and my GSM provider).Not to mention Internet access for use with my notebook and Palm. And it is not a bleeding edge phone - it was when it was new (it is a US design - Motorola), but now it lacks Bluetooth, multimedia messaging and some cool customization options. It isn;t expensive. It works everywhere in the world, even in some areas of US, where GSM 1900 is avaliable. Since it is private, I can switch it off when I'm not at work, so my employer can;t reach me everywhere. Since I can switch caller ID on and off, it won't advertise my pnone number when I don;t want to. I can't imagine living without one. Why americans don't want to use them is a mystery to me.

    • by MtViewGuy (197597) on Sunday June 30, 2002 @08:40PM (#3797702)
      IronTek,

      I think the biggest reason why the USA hasn't really adopted cellular phones on a scale like they do in Japan and Europe is the fact the USA has probably the cheapest landline telephone costs in the world.

      Remember, in the USA for the most part local calls up to 10-12 miles from where you call are not billed by the minute. This is why Internet access took off in the USA using landline voice telephone connections. Also, long distance calls within the USA are really cheap, too; the various 10-10 service allow you to call anywhere in the USA for under US$0.10 per minute 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

      Because landline telephone calls in Japan and Europe are billed by the minute even for local calls, when cellular systems were introduced there the pricing structure between cellular and landline phone service was not that much different, so people in Japan and Europe took to cellphones very quickly.
      • Landline costs have nothing to do with this!

        Even though Europe (I am in Sweden) does not have flat rates, I have never ever heard anyone feeling constrained by land line phone pricing. And the mobile phone pricing is/has been up to 50 times the cost of a local call. The price different is significant and often discussed. Mobile phone calls cut deeply into peoples pockets. Same price structure? Perhaps, but the dynamics are vastly different. BTW, I call the USA for less than ten cents a minute. Relatives in USA does not seem to be able to get same price for calling here though.

    • Finland [cia.gov]: 5175783 people / 305470 km = 16,9 people/km

      USA [cia.gov]: 27805881 people / 9158960 km = 30,4 people/km

      Going strictly by even this inaccurate measure (it should favor USA even more since the big cities are *big* and the people density is much higher there), it should be much more cost effective to cover all of USA in a cellular network than all of Finland. And we've had complete GSM900 coverage for several years now. How can this be?

      Of course, the numbers for Japan are ridiculous, but we'll leave that out of the comparison:

      Japan [cia.gov]: 126771662 people / 374744 km = 338,3 people/km
    • So far, everyone seems to have missed probably the most important reason that the US is behind in cellular access: lack of regulation resuliting in lack of standardization.

      The FCC decided, on digital cellular technology, to not specify a single standard, but rather allow companies to choose whatever standard they wanted - as long as it met spectral efficiency and a few other requirements.

      This had two effects - one greatly detrimental to the US, and one of great benefit to the rest of the world:

      First, the phone companies adopted several standards... three modulation standards (TDMA, CDMA and GSM) on two bands. Thus phones purchased for one company are rarely useful with a competitor's system. So, if you switch providers, you have to buy another phone. The phone companies take advantage of this to reduce churning (people buying the service, and then dropping off shortly afterwards). In fact, they are so vicious about it at this point that many will not even allow *compatible* phones if you first bought it through a competitor. More about that later...

      Second, the freedom to innovate meant that the technically superior CDMA standard was given a chance. Without the deregulation, TDMA would have been chosen as the standard (as it was for GSM - although not a compatible TDMA). With deregulation some companies (typically the old land-line companies) went with TDMA, and others with CDMA. CDMA has shown what its inventor (the president of Qualcomm) claimed: it provides a higher spectral density than TDMA - more phones per megaHerz per square kilometer. As a result, future standards are all based on CDMA. This is a benefit to the whole world....except that in the US we will still have a whole bunch of non-interoperable standards.

      The large number of standards is the problem. It reduces consumer incentive to buy fancy phones, because they cannot take them with them if they change providers. It reduces manufacturer incentive because the market is split across a whole bunch of different standards, so the production runs are smaller. In addition, the companies may never develop adequate interoperability on the backbone level for data and messages... thus instant messaging may only work if the person you are messaging is with the same vendor. In other words, the US phone system is developed as if the lessons of the internet never happened (standards, interoperability)!!

      One gratuitous comment...
      I had a CDMA phone from Sprint. I changed service to Qwest, which has a technically compatible system. But Qwest was unable to use the phone, because Sprint refused my request to provide the programming unlock code for my phone. Not having time to get into hax0ring it, I bought another phone.
    • This always comes up... Amazingly enough (check an atlas), Europe and Asia also have a very large land mass (particularly if you include Russia), although population density is higher in Western Europe. China has 90% of the land area of the US and already has more cell phone users than any other country, including the US (well over 100 million). Also, Europe is a single mobile market, so it makes little sense to talk about individual countries. GSM has about 70% of the world market, and the world's land mass is very much larger than the US. In the US as in Europe, coverage is not completely universal - remote areas of the UK (mountainous and very sparsely populated) have no coverage, just like remote areas in the US.

      Some of the reasons that the US is behind include lack of a single standard (Analogue, TDMA, CDMA and GSM are all out there, unlike Europe with only GSM and Asia with mainly GSM and CDMA), and charging for incoming calls. If a new set of area codes had been allocated for cell phones in the US, it would have been possible to charge the caller for calls to cell phones - instead, someone in the same area code as your phone number cannot be charged the actual cost (due to free local calls typically), so the person called is charged. The result is that people don't give out their mobile numbers very much, and tend to encourage people to call them at home or work first.

      Another example is texting (short message service) - Europeans and Asians have had this simple 'short email in your pocket' service for some years, and it is incredibly popular across the board. This is due to adopting the single GSM standard, which used SMS initially just for voicemail notifications; a few years ago, the wireless operators enabled interoperability between networks, and traffic rose significantly. The US is beginning to catch up here by enabling SMS interoperability.
    • Except for the simple fact that the US is also far behind Australia in terms of cellphone usage and Australia has the same area with only 8% of the population of the US.

      The real reason is the pricing of cellphones compared to land lines. When you are going to be charged for an incoming call there is absoultely no incentive for anyone to buy a phone so people can keep in touch with them. One day a provider in the US is going to figure this out and make a lot of money as half the population switches.
  • by Joel Ironstone (161342) on Sunday June 30, 2002 @06:58PM (#3797206)
    Meanwhile, a working dad in Japan gets to watch his son grow up.

    Yes, I suppose in 128x128 resolution at 1 frame per second. But in north america and europe where the working week is 60 hours a week, the father (or mother) can actually watch the child and maybe offer a helping hand. Instead of admire a pixelated version.

    Perhaps this phenemonon can explain the adoption gap. If we have more time to spend with the ones we love, we don't need to purchase technological replacements for this contact.

    Just a thought.

  • by PhysicsGenius (565228) <physics_seeker&yahoo,com> on Sunday June 30, 2002 @07:00PM (#3797209)
    I always see a ton of trolls talking about how cell phones give us cancer and I'd like to post some real, science-based information to forestall the inevitable tide. We are right to be skeptical of outrageous claims like "my cell phone gave me cancer" and I applaud the many geeks who, in this story and others, have stood up to suspected pseudo-science and brought to bear a modicum of scientific knowledge.

    However, there are significant reasons to believe the claim is true in this case. For instance, consider electric fields. You may not be aware of this or have thought of it this way, but a microwave oven is basically just a big, unmodulated radio station broadcasting in the microwave band instead of the radio band. And what do we use microwave ovens for? Cooking things.

    And microwaves, like all electromagnetic radiation, are caused by what? Electric fields. And a major source of electric fields and broadcast power is what? Cell phones. And we put cell phones where? Next to our genitals and next to our brains[1].

    So, while I love my personal computer, SUV, air-conditioning and other marvels of modern life I Just Say No to cancer-causing cell phones.

    [1] For me this is two separate locations, YMMV

  • by case_igl (103589) on Sunday June 30, 2002 @07:01PM (#3797212) Homepage
    My aunt lived in Japan for two years. From what she said, and this article mentions, is that getting a land line phone is very expensive.

    The article quotes $700, but if I recall my aunt mentioned it was more than that. Additionally, the waiting list to get a telephone was months and months long.

    So, to me, it's no surprise that Japanese are using cell phones for both voice and data more than US counterparts. A big chunk of people there simply can't even make a call from home. So they are used to using their cell phones more than your average American.

    I think geography has something to do with it as well. Japan has a much higher population density than the US, so it's easier for the providers. You don't need to erect as many towers to cover the same number of people.
    Installing and upgrading cell towers to support higher speed data services costs a fortune, so I'm not surprised it's not happening faster in the US. You'd need thousands of towers in Japan, compared to tens of thousands here.

    Case
    • Tradeoffs (Score:5, Funny)

      by Ilan Volow (539597) on Sunday June 30, 2002 @08:04PM (#3797488) Homepage
      Japan has a much higher population density than the US, so it's easier for the providers. You don't need to erect as many towers to cover the same number of people.

      So in other words, Americans have far more erections than the Japanese, but when they have an erection they do it with more people.
  • It's simple: in Japan, Europe, Australia, New Zealand etc... you only pay to call someone, not to receive a call. I understand most Americans are reluctant to give out their cellphone numbers because you pay to receive calls as well.
    This is stupid.
    Also, the US has a large culture of pager use that just hasn't taken off anywhere else in the world. We have cellphones with SMS capability to do the same thing. Forget combining the two products - they're already combined.

    There are five stages to owning a mobile phone: This presumes you've got one to make use of it, not to just so you can say you have one.
    1: Buy the phone. Many people think this is the only thing they have to do. It's not.
    2: Carry the damned thing with you everywhere. Most fall over at this point because they do things like only carry the phone to work or whatever - if it's not with you AT ALL TIMES then people won't get used to reaching you on it. This stage is tricky because you carry it everywhere even when it doesn't ring, and it won't for ages until:
    3: Don't be afraid to give out your number to everyone. EVERYONE. Once you've done this you'll actually start receiving calls - it's only at this point you'll be seeing the benefit of having the phone.
    4: Don't be afraid to MAKE calls on your phone. The more you use it the more you'll be contacted on your phone.
    • With 33cents a minute, who on earth would try to make a call unless it's absolutely necessary? problems with US and Canadian wirless are:

      1) Cost - If calls are cheap enough, then more and more people will have phones.
      2) Availability - If it's cheap enough, more people would have cellphones with them then I might need one too (domino effect)
      3) Cheaper data services, more flexable service plans etc. might help too.
    • You forgot rule #5: Talk on the phone while sitting on the crapper, drop phone in toilet, curse loudly.
    • It's simple: in Japan, Europe, Australia, New Zealand etc... you only pay to call someone, not to receive a call. I understand most Americans are reluctant to give out their cellphone numbers because you pay to receive calls as well.
      This is stupid.


      I'm not sure about that. Firstly, I don't use all of the monthly minutes on my phone. So an incoming call costs me nothing (up to a point). Secondly, cost is 10 cents *Canadian* per minute up here/on my provider, so I could talk for an hour straight for the cost of a submarine sandwich. My conversations are typically 2 minutes or so (arranging to see people in person or conveying quick information), so quantity of calls is simply not a factor.

      The real reason I don't give out my cell number much is that there's a select few people who I want to be able to bug me at any minute of the day. Everyone else can just email me.

      So I don't think the cost argument holds, in my location and within my peer group at least.
    • 1. 99.99 percent of the time, it can wait.

      Yeah, see the thing is, I don't want to be reached all the time. Right now, there is no reason any one would need to contact me urgently. Whatever it is, it can wait. If it's that much of an emergency that you have to get in touch with me, maybe you should call 911 first.

      Thats why my cell phone sits in a drawer, and is only pulled out and activated when I move someplace where I can't get a land line. (I'm a college student, the moving every 9/3 months thing is getting old fast...)

      I understand that there are certain careers where you do need to be in touch all the time, but if I'm not in one, the cell phone stays in the drawer.
    • Why would you need to be reachable most of the day?

      I consider it a blessing that I'm unreachable while commuting. I don't give out my cell phone number because I don't want anyone to call me.

      My favorite is watching people talking on their cell phone as they walk down the street. The conversation is always like this:

      "...no no, not doing anything, just walking down the street...nope, in the city. Nope, nothing going on. How about you? So, what's going on..."

      Complete inanity.

      I guess if you pay for 9000 minutes a month, you're going to use them no matter how ridiculous it is.
      • And this is exactly what the article is talking about. This is the reason why the US is behind in this technology.

        There is nothing wrong with this attitude at all, however in other countries this attitude is generally not accepted, and that is the reason they adopt wireless technology more quickly.

        No this is not flamebait, I'm just pointing out the obvious.
  • by waimate (147056) on Sunday June 30, 2002 @07:04PM (#3797227) Homepage
    Ignoring glizty features like clunky video, and just talking about the ability to make and receive phone calls, pretty much the whole world is way ahead of the US in mobile telephones.

    And the "large country" argument doesn't hold water. Mobile telephony in Australia is a generation ahead of the US, and we're about the same land mass with one fifteenth the population. Ok, coverage ain't great in the middle, but you can make a phone call in Melbourne, and hold the same connection while you drive 4000km to Cape York.

    I once stood on the ancient Greek island of Delos which was once the centre of the known universe, and received a mobile phone call from someone back home in Oz who'd just dialed my regular number. Awesome.

    • by thogard (43403)
      Keep in mind that Melbourne has more people than Chicago. It is a higer density city than most in the US. I can drive 20 minutes in any direction from the CBD (downtown) and find many places where GSM coverage is poor non-existant. Australia needed MAPS (old analog) for the rural areas but they pulled it out and replaced it with a worthless CDMA system which provides much less coverage in rural areas. The population density of Australia seems to be a mix between very high (like in Europe, not high for Aisa) or none (like most of the outback). There are very few areas that have medium or low density of people unlike the midwest US where there are vast tracks of land with lots of little setlements spread all around.
    • by alizard (107678) <alizard AT ecis DOT com> on Sunday June 30, 2002 @09:21PM (#3797924) Homepage
      Anybody in the US who hasn't figured out that the Libertarian cult argument that "if we get government completely out of the marketplace, everything will be wonderful" is bullshit need only look at the US inferiority in the area of cell phones to get the point.

      There are certain areas where government regulation to protect corporations from their own short-sighted stupidity and the public from the consequences is a very good idea.

      EU regulation forced the national (later private) carriers to standardize on ONE cell phone technology.

      As a result, there is effectively one cellular network in EU that the different carriers build towers for, and as a result, an EU mobile user can get dial tone practically anywhere. SMS works everywhere. An EU user who wants to change carriers can do so by swapping the SIM card. EU users don't have to pay for incoming calls.

      Meaning that just about everyone has a mobile in the more advanced parts of EU, and the same phone that works in Holland works fine in Spain. I have a close friend in Holland. I take it for granted my SMS messages will get to her no matter where in the EU she goes.

      "Let the market decide" has put the US a generation behind the rest of the world for mobile services. The major RBOCs got exactly what they paid for, and not only did the public get screwed, but they are not profiting off cell phones the public can't be bothered to buy. Isn't it wonderful having the best elected officials money can buy?

    • I might point out that the US started building its cell network before the rest of the world did - as such, the rest of the world got to learn from our mistakes and benefit from our discoveries, while we got to live with our mistakes and make our discoveries.

      Hence, the rest of the world had an advantage in being able to build with newer, better tech than the US.
  • Behind? (Score:2, Informative)

    by huckda (398277)
    No, we are not "behind" in technology, we are RESTRICTED...

    FACT...anyone can go to Japan/Europe/etc. and purchase any of the equipment, but good luck getting the FCC permission to implement it, even for a local market.

    The United States is not behind in technology, be 'merely'(I say tongue in cheek) restricted in the area of what technology they are ALLOWED to use.

    --Huck
    • This is exactly backwards. The problem in the US is that the FCC allowed the phone companies to implement any standard they wanted as long as it met spectral density requirements. Most of the rest of the world (Japan excluded, btw) required one system: GSM.
  • Whenever a U.S. carrier comes out with a data service, they charge ridiculous rates to use it. Either airtime (for wap browsing on verizon) or some insane per Kilobyte fee for data. Plus the speed sucks too bad to use it for much more than text...
  • the rest of the world uses 1 yes ONE way and the good ol US of A are stuck useing anouther demand that your network use GSM !

    regards

    john 'no its not broken' jones
    • hmm.
      http://www.voicestream.com/
      http://www.attw s.com/mobileinternet/
      http://www.gsmworld.com/roa ming/gsminfo/cou_us.sht ml
      http://www.cingular.com/

      There's a LOT of GSM in the USA.
      • One small problem, it is GSM, but its not the same frequency as the rest of the world. I have heard of dual frequency GSM phones that can do both US and the rest of the world GSM, but I havent seen them myself.
        • world phones. T68i. There's a LOT of em. The only reason we don't use the same frequency as the rest of the world is the damn military.
        • most of the world uses 1800/900 GSM, you just have to find a phone (marketed abroad as "world phones") that also work on the 1900 GSM system -- the US version. www.gsmarena.com has a bunch.
        • Well the rest of the world isn't quite as one frequency as you'd think. Most of the rest of the world is GSM 1800, but there are still parts that are GSM 900. The US is GSM 1900, so different from the rest of the world. No problem though, it's still GSM and all new GSM phones like the Motorola v60 support all 3 frequencies.

          Near as I know the reason the US went with a new GSM frequency is because the military makes use of the 1800 bands (and 800 doesn't offer good quality).
    • We have plenty of GSM service. VoiceStream, Verizion, Cingular and AT&T all offer GSM service. AT&T also offers GPRS service (not sure about the others).
  • by ryantate (97606) <ryantate@ryantate.com> on Sunday June 30, 2002 @07:14PM (#3797263) Homepage
    Some say that many Japanese have turned to wireless phones because a residential phone line costs $700 to install. While that explains the quick adoption of mobile phones for voice calls, it doesn't explain the embrace of data services.

    Umm, except that in most countries people get online and access "data services" through the telephone network. If it is prohibitively expensive to access the Internet from home, due to setup and/or per-minute/per-month charges, it makes sense that people spend more time sending e-mail and accessing information from their phones rather than from home PCs. I don't know if this is the case, but I would like to have seen it addressed in the article.

    I know at $700 I would not be ready to add a second phone line for the Net and I don't know how far along the broadband rollout is over there.
    • Umm, except that in most countries people get online and access "data services" through the telephone network

      Back to Japan - you don't actually need a PC for email and browsing. The phones themselves are sufficient to the task.

  • by bogie (31020)
    "the Japanese kick Americans' butts when it comes to wireless cell phone technology and usage"

    This of course would imply that being 24/7 connected to everyone and the internet is somehow a "good thing". Personally I think its a flaw. Don't get me wrong I think the idea of streaming video and web surfing is cool on a phone, its just that in the scheme of things I don't think this is some sort of great positive influence on society.
  • by Ethelred Unraed (32954) on Sunday June 30, 2002 @07:23PM (#3797288) Journal

    The biggest reason why cellphones have not taken off in the US in comparison to Europe, at least, is simply price -- or in particular the *way* they are priced.

    In Germany (and, I believe, in most other European countries), cellphones are charged exactly the same way a fixed-line phone is charged. You pay a basic monthly fee, and you pay per second or 10 seconds for calls you make. There are no "airtime" fees or other gotchas. The rates are also easy to understand, more or less -- for a call within your provider's network, you pay a "local" call; calls within your country are "long-distance"; and calls outside of your country are international. Quite rational.

    My provider also has the added perk that I can choose either five fixed-line numbers or one area code to get discounted calls. So if I choose Berlin's area code -- 030 -- I can call anyone in Berlin for a much lower rate.

    In comparison, my family in the States has a blizzard of confusing fee schedules, with plenty of "gotchas" built-in.

    Another problem is the lack of standards across the States. Europe has the GSM standard, and your phone will work across nearly all of Europe. The USA has no such common standard, and even if you're smart enough to get a dual-band or tri-band cellphone, you get hammered on the roaming charges in the States.

    I'm actually not that much of a fan of cellphones-as-portals, though -- WAP seems such an abortion of an idea and so far navigating the Web with a keypad is just a non-starter (and, like the article says, Americans tend to drive and not take public transport, so they have less time to fiddle with the things). But it is often a nice option to have. I use it to check what movies are playing (and to reserve tix), check train times (OK, that's not too useful in the States ;-P ) and sometimes to check the news, but that's about it -- I would never buy anything with it, because the technology is so far rather insecure.

    i-Mode was also recently introduced in Germany by my provider (they licensed the technology from NTT-DoCoMo), so Europe is close to Japan's level now, though it remains to be seen if i-Mode and other 2.5G technologies take off in Europe (let alone 3G).

    GPRS and HSCSD are also well-established, so I can go online at 56K digital with my Nokia and Powerbook via infrared and OS X (haven't gotten it to work with Linux, tho). GPRS is *very* expensive, though -- 2.5 Eurocents per 1K of data -- but HSCSD is fairly reasonable (why the difference, I don't know -- both give you the same speed AFAIK).

    Cheers,

    Ethelred [grantham.de]

    • I guess I'm somewhat confused by the fee schedule.

      I have a Voicestream phone... er I mean Deutsche-Telekom... er I mean T-Mobile... here in the states. For US$40/month I get 600 minutes during the work week and unlimited on weekends.

      I get free long distance, and if I stay within GSM providers I get free roaming.

      Now, yes... the US is a large country and we don't have 100% coverage on any given standard. Generally only in the major metro areas and along connecting interstates.
    • The biggest reason why cellphones have not taken off in the US in comparison to Europe, at least, is simply price -- or in particular the *way* they are priced

      For that to make sense, you have to believe that cellphones have not been widely adopted in the U.S. And that is simply not true.

      A very large percentage of people have cellphones, and among people in their late teens through early thirties, *most* people have cellphones.

      What hasn't "taken off" is the newer cell technologies, which is caused more by the plethora of inconsistent standards and the mistaken attempts of service providers to lock their customers in and make it difficult to switch. It's also related to the sheer size of the country and the fact that the population is so mobile. It's impossible to deploy a new infrastructure all at once nationwide, and few people want to sign up for a service that has limited area. The adoption of digital PCS caused companies to resort to abominations like my phone, which can communicate on three different types of networks.

      PCS deployment is actually still rolling out; large areas of the country are only covered by analog cells. That being the case, it's hard to get cell companies excited about dropping yet another large pile of cash into new infrastructure that covers territory they've already populated with at least two kinds of networks.

    • "In Germany (and, I believe, in most other European countries), cellphones are charged exactly the same way a fixed-line phone is charged. You pay a basic monthly fee, and you pay per second or 10 seconds for calls you make."

      This is yet another reason why mobile phones are not nearly as popular in north america compared to europe/asia. In Canada and the USA all landline phones have a 'local' calling area (usually your city and a bit of the surrounding area) where calling costs exactly $0.00/second as long as you are paying the monthly charge for basic phone service. This means that for dialup internet, you can stay connected for as long as you want and you don't run up big phone bills unless for some reason your are dialing long distance to an ISP (which is insane.)

      The landline networks in Canada/USA are extremely reliable and cheap to use so we have less motivation to switch to mobile phones.

    • "In comparison, my family in the States has a blizzard of confusing fee schedules, with plenty of "gotchas" built-in. "

      I challenge anyone to count the number of phone service 'plans' in Canada and the USA. Some like you say have many 'gotchas' while others were made for the purpose of being simple - you just pay $x.xx/month for so many minutes plus extra $0.xx/minute for long distance. No nonsense. The same situation exists for landline phone service. except that local (non-long distance) calling is not limited in any respect.

      Basically I'm saying that there is great variety in north american landline and mobile phone plans.

  • Simple (Score:3, Insightful)

    by The Cat (19816) on Sunday June 30, 2002 @07:27PM (#3797301)
    They don't lay off their staff every six months.

    Having someone around who actually knows how to build something is important to the empire-building, plant-watering donut list and their bonuses.

    Japan in particular probably has a much better developed sense of loyalty and business ethics as well. Of course, the suits will disagree, but when was the last $4 billion "accounting error" in Japan?
  • *sigh*

    Why do seemingly well-intentioned and intelligent people assume that distinct and different cultures should enjoy a technological homogoneity?

    Is it that difficult to understand that not everything that works for Americans works for Japanese or Europeans? There are many factors that determine which technologies thrive in different countries. This article both acknowledges these difrerences and at the same time dismisses them. Why? Probably because a rationale article doesn't pay the bills for a freelance writer compared to a doom and gloom article.

    The Japanese like their cellphones? Good for them. I like my broadband connection.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 30, 2002 @07:31PM (#3797321)
    If your cities were invaded and devastated by giant monsters as much as they are, you'd have a cell phone too. Think about what a giant reptile rampaging about does to the power and phone grids.
  • Data point... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by march (215947) on Sunday June 30, 2002 @07:33PM (#3797335) Homepage
    Two years ago when I was in Tokyo, we were giving a demo with our Japanese counterparts to a financial instutution there.

    The demos were given at 120k bps over a cell phone that flipped open and plugged into a pcmcia slot in our laptop.

    That freakin' rocked. We (USA) didn't have anything even close.
    • I work for AT^H^H^H Telco.. running the SGSN/GGSNs (main transport) for the GPRS data network. Currently we have multiple products to give you faster speed, most is used for tethering, if you use a gprs modem or a phone in gprs tethered mode, you can use compression software to get better speed. 56K(115K) is a nice notch up from the 1.2k+ of cdpd. With the compression software installed, windows (sorry, ive only seen a windows client) takes the fat inet pipe and converts it into a compressed format that downloads text in 768K speed, re-images pictures to make them faster for download. This solves the short term problem for speed. UMTS is already being deployed, (WE are talking FULL GSM people..) This is why most everyone went the GPRS method(TDMA), the hardware is easily upgradeable, just swap out part of the nortel hardware, and boom, Full 2mbit GSM. We already have multiple T1's going to base stations for the bandwidth. Yes its shared bandwidth, so is cable modems.

      Its funny, we use the same hardware as the UK Telecoms, the same phone vendors, but we are 6+ months from deploying (or trial) UMTS that will put the UK telecoms to shame. American pricing is all you can eat, unlimited service. I will have high speed wireless to my apartment, before Verizon gets me DSL. (Verizon has some messed up lan lines in seattle/bothell areas)

      GPRS is an easy mod for GSM phones, this is why your seeing UK style phones with color displays now. Nokia, Ericcson only has to modify a phone, not re-invent it.

      6 months till 2003, it will be an Interesting year...

  • This article doesn't mention how much they pay all together, and what sorts of services their plans offer. All the plans here have some downfall: not enough daytime minutes, nasty long distance charges, exorbitant roaming, etc. Pick one or two of those and you have basically every plan. Anyone know?
  • by saw (5768)
    While waiting at the gate for a flight out of
    Narita airport, I tried plugging in my wireless
    card just on a lark. I was surprised to find that
    the card saw an access point plus dhcp gave me
    an address and a full connection to the net. I was
    able to spend the rest of my wait doing email,
    IM, and sshing back home. Investigating later, it
    seems that something called the IPv6 Promotion
    Council, along with assorted agencies,
    is sponsoring a free wireless LAN trial at
    the airport and on some trains and train stations
    until July 31, 2002. (See http://www.nex.v6pc.jp/)

    I wonder if we can every expect such experiments
    in the US?

  • by mrm677 (456727) on Sunday June 30, 2002 @08:57PM (#3797795)
    1) U.S. is huge in terms of area. Nationwide digital, I mean real nationwide, can't be rolled out because of the cost. This is another reason why Europeans have one standard being GSM. GSM was initially rejected by U.S. operators because the cell size is so small. CDMA was promised to solve all of the problems that GSM didn't. CDMA, widely adopted in the U.S., can have larger cell sizes because it is not based on time division. If you make a GSM cell too large, it takes too long for the signal to travel thus messing up the frame of the next time slot. With CDMA, there is a tradeoff of cell size versus capacity versus quality (9.6kps or 14.4kbs). Cell sizes can be made much larger however the noise floor is raised thus reducing the capacity of that cell.

    Also smaller cell sizes, as present in Japan, makes phones smaller because they don't need to output as much power thus requiring a smaller battery.

    However looking back, it sure would be nice if we had a single unified digital standard like the Europeans, but does that really inhibit people here?? If I have a TDMA phone, that doesn't stop me from calling my buddy who has a GSM phone?

    2) We already have an efficient land-based voice&data infrastructure that is cheap and omnipresent. Everybody, I mean everybody including your grandparents, already has land-based voice service. This isn't the case in other countries where land-based service is costly or unavailable.

    3) We have the space, and the money, for computers in our households. Why surf the internet on a 2" screen when you have that Gateway sitting in your living room at home?

    4) A multitude of other socio-economic/cultural reasons that are on the tip of my tongue but I don't feel like delving into. For example, I did away with my cellphone because I would rather spend my money on DSL at home. Even if my cellphone had the nifty Japanese features, I still would choose my PC at home with DSL. Some may not agree with me, but I believe that many do. If I had a little more money to spend, a cellphone with basic voice service would suffice.
  • What the article doesn't mention is that i-mode Internet access (Internet access via your cell phone offered by DoCoMo) is very limited in many way.
    Sure, your phone is capable of connecting to the Internet, but typically, most regular websites are not accessible from your phone, as it is bigger than the maximum size that your phone is capable of handling. I have found less than 1% of normal websites are accessible from my phone. So, you are basically limited to i-mode only sites, which are not very accessible from your computer. I suppose this is one of the reason why many people doens't realize i-mode is connected to the Internet.
    Also, as far as the e-mail goes, I have personally found it useless. For one thing, your mail has to be less than 250 characters (2 byte Japanese characters, so you should be able to write up to 500 characters in 1 byte English characters, I think), so you cannot send a long e-mail message. At least for me, it doesn't take long for me to fill up the 250 character limit!
    Inputting the text is pretty bad, if you ask me. You basically have to enter it by pressing the bunch of buttons on the phone multiple times, scrolling many times, etc. It is very inefficient to type anything into that. I think most Japanese don't think it is all that bad, as very few Japanese can type, so they find that entering text in their cell phones aren't all that worse than pecking the keyboard to enter text on their PC.
    I then thought maybe I could use my cell phone to access to my servers via ssh (my phone is capable of using Java applications designed for cell phones known as "i-appli"). Well, turned out, apparently there is no way of connecting standard ssh port numbers (actually, I think you can only connect to a handful of port numbers on these cell phones). So, here again, I have found it useless.
    I personally don't use i-mode access very much at all for the reasons that I listed above. Why do I have that? Well, when I got the phone last fall, there was no way not to have that, and I cannot unsubscribe from it for a year no matter what I do! That's how their contract works! I would be happy to lose the ability to connect to the Internet on my cell phone.
    So, the story here is, for most of you who are used to connect to the Interent via computer, you may find the model they have in Japan is very inadequate for what you use for.
  • by Russ Steffen (263) on Sunday June 30, 2002 @10:03PM (#3798117) Homepage

    The real reason America is so far behind in cell phone technology is obvious: We're all afraid of being beaten to death with our own phones by one of the thugs who were posting to this story [slashdot.org]

  • Well, I happen to use GSM+GPRS in Hong Kong, and i-Mode in Japan, here's my two cents worth:

    1) Don't underestimate the value of good quality, large, color screens on a phone. It makes *everything* much easier: using the built-in phone book, navigating menus, etc. Try a mapping application on a screen with 4 lines of b&w text.

    2) The Japanese phones are generally more *fun* to use. Screensavers, games, ring tones, etc. add a lot more variety, innovation, and tend to drive handset upgrades.

    3) They work better for voice calls. The sound quality is better. The batteries seem to last forever.

    4) The revenue sharing model means that there are more content providers, this leads to competition among them, hence better services.

    5) Close collaboration between the operators and the handset manufacturers has led to standardisation of things like batteries, cables and headsets, which makes life easier for users, and also promotes upgrades - after all, you can keep using your old accessories.

    6) Operators are willing to take ownership of the correct functioning of the entire service - they will help configure your PC (in fact, some have dedicated ports for mobile phone connection), troubleshoot the correct functioning of services, etc.

    I would have to agree with the main premise of the article, which is that lack of innovation by the operators has forced them in to the trap of bulk selling minutes at ever-lower prices. I find the quality of the basic service superior in Japan, and the supplementary services are actually useful.

  • Sum it up (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jbridges (70118) on Monday July 01, 2002 @12:42AM (#3798841)
    1. US landlines are virtually free (local calls unbilled, long distance 2 to 3 cents a minute with calling cards, or services like BigZoo). So few use Cell instead of landline.

    2. US providers charge for incomming calls, so no one gives out their number, and often leave their phone off.

    3. US workers tend to drive to work. So less idle time to play with phone features.

    4. US system is disorganized so your services and messaging often do not work across providers.

    5. US has FAR higher ratio of PC owners than Japan. So many features like email/messaging are done from PC.

    6. US is a very large place, with many different providers often with incompatible networks. So access/reception is not reliable enough replace land lines.

    To those who say use in the US is low because voice rates are too high here. They are not, they are often cheaper than other countries like Japan, Germany and Finland. But a fixed line is FAR more expensive in those countries than the US.

    Anyway, standardize the system, make rates competitive with land lines and you will see an explosion in use (but that raises the other issue, capacity).

  • by ashitaka (27544) on Monday July 01, 2002 @03:17AM (#3799268) Homepage
    This article [japantoday.com] talks about a new system that calls/emails your cell phone when there is a break-in, fire or other emergency in your home. Selecting the link displays webcam images of inside your house.

    Sure, with a lot of hacking you could set up a similar system here but nobody's put together the full package yet. (AFAIK)
  • I won't repeat some of the good comments already made, so here are two additional reasons that might explain the cell usage difference between the US and the rest of the world.

    In most European countries. You can get cell phones with special area codes that will charge the person more money for calling you. I don't know if this is the case in Japan, but in the US, this is simply not allowed and this policy has effectively barred the US from moving into the lower end of the market.

    Houses in Japan are very hard to find. I am not kidding. Streets in Tokyo are adhoc. House numbers are not assigned according to geographical locations, they are assigned sequentially according to the time they were built. This reason alone was credited for the early ubiquitous adoption of the fax machine for giving out directions and I wouldn't be surprised if it also helped for the early adoption of the cell phone.

    Stephan

  • by LuYu (519260) on Monday July 01, 2002 @03:22PM (#3802365) Homepage Journal

    I really cannot understand why these articles keep popping up saying, "Why are cell phones so popular in Japan and Europe when they are not in the US?"

    The reason I am so sick of this is that the reasons are basically obvious to anybody that does not have a business degree. There are two main categories for this problem: Greed and marketing stupidity. And these problems are also pervasive in the US broadband market.

    The first problem, greed, should be obvious to any customer or individual who has even inquired about cellphones at any store. Every company has their own proprietary cell phones and will not allow customers to use their service without buying a new phone. This was covered in this slashdot article [slashdot.org].

    This practice essentially creates a monopoly where the customer must deal with a large expense to switch service providers. Companies might think this is good for business because it protects their customer base, but it, in fact, harms their business because people do not like to commit like that. In this case, the cellphone becomes disposable, and who is going to shell out 300+ bucks for a disposable phone?

    The other aspect to this greed was pointed out by Linus himself in his book Just for Fun . He said the fact that all of the service providers had proprietary systems instead of agreeing on a standard, like GSM, caused the market to be stagnant. I agree with this point. In addition to the fact that it would alleviate the problem stated above, it would also have avoided a lot of the other problems encountered by the cell phone industry. The biggest of these problems was the problem of building cell towers. Without a common standard, the companies all had to build their own system of cell towers, so the service varied greatly from place to place. Service was bad, so customers were annoyed.

    In a common system where companies would be using compatable equipment, they could just pay eachother for bandwidth usage and compete on price and service. However, they wanted to spend all that extra money to attempt to create monopolies. I really do not see the point of having a monopoly over a small number of customers, though.

    The other aspect was stupid marketing. This article talks about what American consumers are doing in their cars. It says that they might want a wireless app to give them a traffic report. This is typical of the marketing decision that was made by some brainiac way back in the early days. Some genius thought that the people who would use cellphones the most would be businessmen. The cellphone industry should find and castrate this guy. He has not only made cellphones bad for business but for the consumer as well.

    Why was this guy stupid? Because businessmen know how much work they do for their dollar. They are not going to spend one more second on the phone than is necessary. They also do not care about aesthetics (unless they are in sales, but even then, most business men have notoriously bad taste, and it is often quite entertaining to watch yuppies feign artistic appreciation). Therefore, businessmen are not going to use their cellphones excessively, and neither are they going to pay top dollar for the prettiest phone on the market.

    Who is going use their phones a lot and pay for the most expensive ones, then? The article [nwsource.com] has a clue. It says:

    Japan's use of wireless phones has frequently been dismissed as superficial fun, a phenomenon driven by teenage girls, Hello Kitty screensavers and an endless variety of ring tones.
    The author (obviously someone who has been in the business world too long) talks about "a phenomenon driven by teenage girls." This is not phenomenon. Think back to when you were a teenager and dating. How many times did you get into a serious fight with a sibling over phone usage? How many times did you get into a fight with your parents restrictions on the phone? How many times did you stay up most or all of the night whispering into the phone so that your parents would not hear?

    Teenagers are the key to cellphone market. They always have been. Teenagers will talk until the battery dies. Teenages will carry an extra battery. Teenagers will buy extra accessories for their phones. Teenagers will use their phones as status symbols to their friends.

    But who pays for these cell phones? Well, the parents, of course. The parents will buy cellphones for their teenagers because they want their kid to be safe. They will want to check up on the kid now and then.

    Now, we have a responsible group (the parents: those businessmen whose money everyone wanted) funding the excesses of an irresposible group (the teenagers who have a hormonal imperative to generate big bills). A phenomenon? I think not.

    As obvious as this may sound, it did not occur to the author of the article [nwsource.com] or the businessmen she interviewed. Cell phones have always been ugly in the US. I will not buy Motorola products because they always released ugly products to the US market (although their cellphones are quite pretty in Asia). I think this attitude that Americans have no aesthetic taste is quite insulting.

    In any case, I am sick of this whining about the consequences of stupid business decisions. It sounds like GM in the late 70's blaming Japan because American consumers did not want the big cars that GM could make greater profits on. Did any of these people read Adam Smith? The market cannot be forced to accept a product (unless of course you are Microsoft).

Wernher von Braun settled for a V-2 when he coulda had a V-8.

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