Vodafone Japan Still Behind The Times

Vodafone’s terrible fortunes in Japan were cited earlier this week as one of the reasons the company sees its next fiscal year being tough. Its problems there are becoming the stuff of legend, as it’s tried just about anything it can think of — with increasing desperation — over the past few years. The head of the unit has moved to reassure people the turnaround is on track, reiterating its earlier plan to wholesale airtime by saying it’s held talks with 30 potential virtual operators. The other part of its plan? Stop trying to push foreign handsets on Japanese consumers. This, of course, is something we noted back in July: Vodafone was trying to roll out a range of handsets to all its units around the world, and devices that were cutting-edge in Europe were a few years behind the times in Japan, and customers stayed away accordingly. Vodafone Japan is still behind, and it’s almost as if the company is like the Titanic trying to turn to miss an iceberg, in the form of the three new entrants recently approved to offer mobile service in Japan. Among them is Softbank, who’s already said it, too, will support MVNOs, a company that’s blown up Japan’s DSL market, and will be a tough competitor for Vodafone and the other incumbents. Vodafone Japan says it will be a competitive player by mid-2007 — by then, it may be too late.

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