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March 28, 2007



Because of the fact that carriers in Japan specify what features should go onto handsets, and because carriers, beginning with DoCoMo, are dictating that the (Sony) FeliCa technology (which is used for the Suica train/bus ticket services, Edy debit e-cash, iD/Visa Touch/QuicPay compatible credit cards, JAL/ANA e-ticket and air miles, various loyalty cards, and similar services which can be accessed by waving the phone over a reader) be integrated into many of the handsets locked into their networks (all of the models from various manufacturers in DoCoMo's premium 90x range of phones (which account for about half of the models sold for the DoCoMo network) have FeliCa installed, as mandated by DoCoMo), the installed base of FeliCa enabled phones is increasing quickly, with the average time between upgrades being ~2years.

However, the number of users actually _using_ the feature is a totally different story, and those statistics are much more difficult to find. The most recent relevant and specific data I could find were for MobileSuica subscribers, who totalled just 120,000 at end Sept 2006, with projections of upto 400,000 users by year end 2006. Suica is also available as a physical card, and mobile Suica comprises just 1% of the Suica user base according to an article quoting someone from JR East which runs Suica.

More popular is the Edy e-cash system, which had 3M+ users using Edy on their phones in mid-2006, a number which is higher now given that Edy is the most popular FeliCa service with ~30% of users who have a compatible phone having registered to use that service. (How many transactions they carry out before they revert to using cash may be a different issue....)

A recent survey by Infoplant showed however that more than 2/3 of users who have FeliCa phones had never used the feature, and even that question was phrased in a way which counted users who have used a feature just once or have stopped using the feature as "users".

Lars Cosh-Ishii

Hello Brough, it’s Lars from Wireless Watch Japan, hope you remember me. Noticed your post ;) and thought you might find this interesting: http://www.nttdocomo.com/features/keitai.html
The Keitai as Lifestyle Infrastructure - Aug. 31, 2006 http://www.nttdocomo.com/features/index.html

Posted on WWJ Sept. 5th http://www.wirelesswatch.jp/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=2034

While it doesn't have any prediction on #'s adopting, there are a few other 'valuable' tidbits there… starting about the 4-min. mark. Fasol’s est. for 50 million by 2010 is predictable considering the current number, over-all market size and predictable churn rate. All things considered, 50mln out of 100mln subs might even be a bit low, but the more interesting number will be % of installs vs. daily usage and therefore the real $$ that exchange on a daily basis. Nice replacement plan from the operator for down-trending arpu. ;) And as you know, we've basically been saying so here since Dec. 2003 (even earlier actually!) when they announced the 1st trial.

It's gonna be the camera-phone on steriods!


In a Skype chat this morning, Lars Cosh-Ishii provided this URL:
which has good information on adoption. Indeed, while "FeliCa Networks, a joint venture owned by Sony and DoCoMo, project there will be 50 million contactless phones in Japan by next year," "Only 350,000 commuters in Tokyo have signed up for a much-touted ticketing service that allows the commuters to download train tickets to their mobile phones and tap the phones to pass through gates, according to giant commuter rail operator East Japan Railway Co."

My take, given the whole article: DoCoMo (and others) are ensuring the payment platform is widely available; adoption takes time, but people find the technology useful and are adoptioning it.

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