Japan's KDDI To Launch American MVNO

In the manual for aspiring gadget site writers, there’s an entire chapter devoted to writing posts about hot new Japanese mobile handsets that end with some variation on “but we’ll never get it here.” It looked like all that was about to get turned on its head this weekend, when Japanese operator KDDI announced it will launch an MVNO in the US as it looks outside the mature Japanese mobile market for new sources of growth. Sadly for gadget fans, though, it will just use rebadged handsets from vendors like Sanyo and LG from Sprint, the company whose network KDDI will use. It’s not the first Japanese foray into the US market. Several years ago, NTT DoCoMo invested about $10 billion in AT&T Wireless, and pretty much lost its shirt on the deal, part of a failed strategy of overseas investments that resulted in $17 billion worth of writedowns. KDDI’s plan sounds much less ambitious, but even with the handset disappointment aside, the venture doesn’t sound all that interesting, as KDDI plans to just target Japanese consumers living in America. That approach, albeit an unattractive one for users outside the target demographic, can be much more commercially sound than trying to attract users with exclusive content.

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