Update On Global iMode

We all know iMode for its early success in mobile data services in Japan. NTT DoCoMo, taking advantage of their global leadership, then managed to export the iMode model and technology to other carriers worldwide, including Australia, the US, and the EU. The linked article below describes how DoCoMo is now focused on securing an iMode partnership with O2 in the UK and with Cingular in the US, and how DoCoMo hopes to achieve economies of scale in handset purchasing through purchasing alliances with the iMode licensees. We believe these purchasing consortia essential to remaining competitive against global behemoths like Vodafone and T-Mobile, who already have the scale necessary to dictate their terminal requirements to vendors, and to drive bargains. Smaller carriers (<10-15M subs) are generally unable to get much response from vendors when they ask for device customization. With a large consortia, iMode carriers could go to the major vendors, or to ODMs, and get terminals customized for the iMode functionality, and even branded with the carrier name and iMode, not branded "Nokia". Unfortunately, the fact that Japan is the source of iMode poses a few problems, since their consumers, spectrum, and radio technologies don't jibe with the rest of the GSM world, thus preventing the use of one phone model globally. Ironically, we think there may be greater opportunity for a iMode purchasing consortium without DoCoMo, where the GSM/W-CDMA based carriers can easily design/test/deploy the same handsets, reach data roaming agreements, and respond to the Vodafone threat. We’ve written long ago that smaller carriers should form alliances for purchasing, and that Vodafone should start extracting scale economies from their size (originally they did not).

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