In Japan, The More Things Change…

We noted back in back in January that NTT DoCoMo’s “new” strategy of overseas investments didn’t look all that different from its old — and failed — strategy of investing in foreign carriers. It’s kept the strategy going, today announcing it was buying up two mobile operators in Guam. In another sign that everything old is new again, it should be pointed out that Softbank’s buyout of Vodafone Japan reunites the former fixed-line and mobile holdings of Japan Telecom. Vodafone sold the fixed business to investment fund Ripplewood in 2003, which sold it eight months later to Softbank. Beyond the initial impressions, though, these really aren’t examples of the same old story playing out in Japan. DoCoMo’s bought the two operators in Guam not to buy into big, growing market, but simply to improve the services its roaming customers receive there, for a price that probably doesn’t cover its annual toilet paper budget. And for Vodafone, buying the fixed-line operations of Japan Telecom were simply a prerequsite to getting the mobile business, but Softbank can be expected to craft some compelling converged services. Vodafone itself is even looking to get back into the fixed-line business in some of its European markets.

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