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ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

Japanese demand for multimedia messaging services (MMS) shows no sign of abating, following the news that J-Phone Co Ltd, the Japanese mobile phone unit of Vodafone Group Plc, has signed over a million subscribers for its mobile phone video messaging service in as little as nine months since its launch.

The large take-up of MMS in Japan has significant implications for European carriers, who are desperate to squeeze more revenue streams out of their existing subscriber base. Vodafone has recently launched Vodafone Live, a series of wireless services for consumers including picture messaging and gaming for mobile handsets.

There is no doubt that the main growth area for MMS is built around picture messaging, and this has been the biggest reason for the large uptake of J-Phone's Sha-mail service. In Japan, the Sha-mail service is proving to be highly popular, and in October it exceeded 7 million subscribers. As of November 19, this has increased to 7.2 million users.

J-Phone only launched its Movie Sha-Mail service in March, and to use it subscribers must have a mobile phone with a built-in camera, which allows them to take a short video clip of up to 5 seconds, with audio. They can then attach the video to an email called a Super Mail, and then send it off to either a PC or movie-enabled phone handset. There are currently six movie handsets as part of J-Phone's camera handset line-up.

The news that video messaging is now showing signs of being another driver in the uptake of MMS, must be tempered with the views of industry analysts, who are predicting that the growth of video phones may be slower than that of picture phones, due to the fact that it takes longer to transfer video to other users or PCs.

J-Phone is Japan's third largest wireless operator behind leader NTT DoCoMo, and second place KDDI Corp. NTT DoCoMo doesn't yet offer a video service, however KDDI last month launched a similar service that allows users to take and exchange a 15-second video clip, compared to J-Phone's 5 seconds.

Meanwhile, Japan's Fair Trade Commission has raided the headquarters of J-Phone and some of its distributors on suspicion of fixing retail prices on mobile phone handsets. J-Phone said it is cooperating with the investigation.

© ComputerWire

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