Wednesday, December 28, 2011

NTT Docomo to partner with handset makers to produce handset chips

I previously heard mumblings that domestic carriers were interesting in implementing "APN locks" in response to the MIC's SIM unlock guidelines. Such a lock would prevent changing the APN to use another carrier's network, even if the phone was unlocked. However, it would likely be at the software level and therefore circumventable by someone properly motivated.

But what if the carrier produced the actual silicon?

Which is just what is going to start happening. NTT Docomo, who pushed hard for SIM unlocking in Japan - only to turn around and effectively bar unlocked handsets from their FOMA (3G) network, is getting into the semiconductor business. Perhaps I'm seeing this from an overly pessimistic point of view, but the last entity I want making my hardware is an old, entrenched company that is under unprecedented pressure to compete in a market that it formerly owned (essentially).

"Communications Platform Planning Corporation" [My translation of 通信プラットフォーム企画 株式会社, not NTT Docomo's] will be a joint venture between five domestic and foreign handset makers, with NTT Docomo being the sole investor to start (¥450 million). The company should be established by mid January 2012. The handset makers are expected to be onboard by the end of fiscal 2011 (March 2012), though exact amounts of their pending investments have not been disclosed.

The company's efforts will focus on efficiency, miniaturization, and LTE, with the resulting silicon incorporated into both domestic and internationally available devices.

Handset partners are:
  • Fujitsu
  • Fujitsu Semiconductor
  • NEC
  • Panasonic Mobile Communications
  • Samsung Electronics
Via Juggly; NTT Docomo Press Release


  1. jesus, really, locking the APNs? One day, some company executives will realize that having people trust them will eventually be more profitable than trying to lock them in in silly ways...

    I'm dreaming I'm sure. Or having a nightmare. Or both. Wake meup!

  2. Mumblings to that effect. I doubt it went any where but I understand that the idea was kicked around.

  3. this has a big "Fail" written all over it. Notice how, except for Samsung, partners are all domestic Japanese makers, who are unable to sell any of their overpriced proprietary feature phones, and who all completely fail at software. It is kind of funny that a Galaxy S2 top-of-the-line model is actually the same price or cheaper than many of the galapagos feature phones.
    Of course these makers fear any competition, because if more and more people realize, that a cheap android-smartphone from almost any other manufacturer can provide similar services at a fraction of the price, their business-modell will vanish. NEC, Casio & Hitachi merging is a sign of this development.

  4. There is a reason that Samsung phones without Japanese features are cheaper: It costs money to add 1seg, Saifu Keitai, pedometer hardware, etc. Some things, like Seki-gai-sen are cheap to add, but have been ignored by the foreign phone makers. Whether these features are useful you personally or not is another issue, but they are important to a *lot* of Japanese people. The Smart phone has to be a *superset* of the feature phones to satisfy the Japanese market as a whole. That means one shouldn't lose DecoMail, KaoMoji, Mobile Suica, TV Call, work with iMode sites, etc., in order to have a smart phone. I think a lot of foreigners don't get this point at all, because they don't know about, or don't use the Japanese features - but you try explaining to some Japanese 18 yo girl why her DecoMail won't work on iPhone or Samsung out-of-the-box. SmartPhones have lots of cool capabilities (skype, real email, etc.), but many people don't even want to worry about those until the status quo is met.

    There is a certain segment that doesn't care, and wants computer-like features (mainly computer users), but most of those have smart-phones by now.

  5. What does NTT getting into the semiconductor business have to do with locking APNs? Setting the APN on an android phone is an OS feature. I don't see anything in the press release to suggest they are planning this.

  6. I understand what you are saying, but if this was entirely the case, the iPhone wouldn't be popular. At all.