DoCoMo's ways to increase its revenues = :(

In last week issue of Business Week, there was an interesting interview of NTT DoCoMo's CEO Masao Nakamura. The interview reflects the troubles they have to get DoCoMo sales back on track and how to get revenues growing again:

Q: Those measures might stabilize the situation, but how do you get revenues growing again? A: We have to grow the traffic volume -- not voice, but data traffic. If you look at the overall customer base, 80% of our customers are either not using data service at all or only slightly for mail transmission only. Just increasing the usage of those customers by 100 yen a month could provide a huge boost to our revenue.

One possibility is pushing information out to customers in order to get them to use data more frequently. The second booster would be visual communication service such as video phones and live video streaming.

Q: What are you doing to develop that? A: We are having a hard time convincing customers to take up video-phone conversations. Grandparents might want to talk to their grandchildren over the video phone, but that's about it. Another factor is that until now, the number of customers owning a videophone-compatible handset was limited. So they weren't able to find people to call. But I think we can resolve this issue by increasing the number of subscribers.

Also, some women, for instance, don't want to pick up a videophone call when they're not wearing makeup -- so the first connection will be established by voice. But when they're ready, they will be able to switch over to videophone.

We also have another feature that enables an avatar to replace the caller. A cartoon character can be shown instead, and when you're ready, you can switch over to your own face. But videophone service is not really rooted in the culture yet, so we have to try to further promote this service.

It seems that their solutions to increase their revenues are rather weak. I am not definitely not a firm believer in videophones, and this avatar thing is really a poor innovation. Besides, I hate this idea of "80% of our customers are either not using data service" so let's push them to send lots of crap to use the bandwidth. At Telecom 2003 in Geneva, I was a bit shocked by the way they want the phone to be a remote control from everything (home lights, tv...) obliging users to pay (using mobile network) to control standard features (switching my tv) at home. I understand that it's how the market behaves but c'mon it really sucks.

On a different note, I would really know more about this stance: "some women, for instance, don't want to pick up a videophone call when they're not wearing makeup", what is this?

The other part of the interview are also interesting; for instance there is a discussion about whether DoCoMo's move to 3G might have been to quick. The other markets they are targeting are also boring, déjà vu and not promising:

We might see some content in providing education. In Japan, there are courses that people go after school in order to prepare for college entrance examinations, and the quiz could be offered on cellphones so that the children can punch in the answers and save time on their studies. [vow what a statement!!!!] Online auctions are becoming available. There are many other kinds of content that have been offered only on PCs, but those can be modified to be offered on cellphones.

The last claim is useless, maybe does he mean that only our imagination is the limit to what we can envision as applications? Somehow I feel that they guy has a very strange discourse, absolutely not innovative and even less user-centered. Is there really not anything more interesting to offer to the users? Absolutely not mention of games, maps or some application related to a concrete user need. I don't get it and it seems that competitors (for instance KDDI who funded the first version the mobile game Mogi Mogi was doing better).

Why do I blog this? carriers' strategy is interesting since they should innovate to keep their customers/users happy but in this case innovation is pretty low. Maybe the best innovation they mention is "a less-expensive model that has fewer features than the highest-end models" because it can fit to real users' demands and needs :( Well I am not really correct here, they do have interesting innovation like this WiFi/cell-phone combination.

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