Keiji Tachikawa – One generation ahead of others

The name Keiji Tachikawa may not ring a bell to some, but he holds the killer application for cell-phones that many around the world envy. His company, NTT DoCoMo Inc., is after all Japan’s largest cell-phone operator.

The name Keiji Tachikawa may not ring a bell to some, but he holds the killer application for cell-phones that many around the world envy.

His company, NTT DoCoMo Inc., is after all Japan’s largest cell-phone operator, and its phenomenally successful wireless Internet connection service – i-mode – has already attracted more than 19 million subscribers in Japan just two years since its launch.

I-mode enables mobile phone, PC and PDA users to access a blizzard of online services such as e-mail, mobile banking, ticket reservation and news and stock updates (Tachikawa declares that he himself uses i-mode to monitor the stock price of NTT DoCoMo).

Part of i-mode’s appeal lies in its packet data transmission technology, which allows users to be charged only for how much information they retrieve, not how long they are online.

Since assuming the role of president of DoCoMo in June 1998, 62-year-old Tachikawa has adopted a proactive approach to seeking out the right foreign partners, and that includes the Netherlands’ KPN Mobile and UK’s Hutchinson 3G.

In November last year, NTT DoCoMo took a 20% stake in Taiwan’s KG Telecommunication for US$510 million. Under the terms of this partnership, a Chinese language version of the i-mode platform will be developed, signaling the beginning of DoCoMo’s foray into the mainland China market.

Also, in February this year, DoCoMo purchased AT&T Wireless tracking stock and warrants for a whopping US$9.8 billion. The two companies plan to jointly develop the U.S. mobile multimedia market as well as promote the spread of W-CDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access) technology in the U.S. market.

Tachikawa has said that he will continue DoCoMo’s buying spree into 2001 in Asia.

He is expected to commercially launch what is claimed to be the world’s first commercial rollout of a third generation network in Tokyo this May.

This W-CDMA network promises data transmission speed and Internet access to both text and graphics-based information many times higher than what is available today.

Tachiwaka hopes that this standard will eliminate the existing disparity between i-mode, GSM and a host of other mobile standards, and become the eventual integrated global standard for wireless Internet access.

Tachikawa declares that he himself uses i-mode to monitor the stock price of NTT DoCoMo

The new service will allow users to send voice, video as well as music clips on handheld gadgets.

Naturally, Tachikawa has no intention of stopping at third-generation technology. He plans to begin development of fourth-generation technology in three to four year’s time. This technology is expected to deliver transmission speeds of 20 megabits per second, 10 times higher than what third-generation technology can provide.

If you are in the cell phone business, that alone is worth dying for. – Ariel Tam, ZDNetAsia