Vodafone's Japanese Adventure Comes To An End
Softbank has confirmed that it will buy Vodafone’s Japanese unit for $15.4 billion, allowing Vodafone to make a somewhat graceful exit from the market there following a long and storied history of screwups since taking control of the operator, then called J-Phone, in 2001. The J-Phone buy did help Vodafone get both its MMS services and its Vodafone Live! content service going around the world, as they were based on J-Phone’s Sha-mail and J-Sky services, respectively. J-Phone also helped introduce Vodafone to the idea of own-branded handsets, which proved a useful tool in its spat with handset manufacturers over branding and customization. But it was a one-way street, as all Vodafone managed to export to Japan was misfortune. The company’s performance has been comically bad, with a merry-go-round of executives leading the company to make some questionable business decisions — not the least of which selling phones that look like lumps of cheese. In any case, expect Softbank to return the new mobile license it won last year, and to be much more aggressive than Vodafone. Softbank is a leading broadband provider in Japan, and also has some fixed-line holdings, which could create some interesting possibilities for bundled and converged services.