Japan's WiMax - another Galapagos?

Japan's industry people often criticize their own mobile industry "Galapagos".  The largest carrier NTT DoCoMo chose their proprietary technology for 2G, and therefore became segregated from the rest of the world and the market developed in quite unique way, just like unique animals in Galapagos.

It turned out to be an obvious bad decision, so they have tried very hard to standardize their technology in 3G cellular.  Yet, in 2.5GHz wireless broadband spectrum, they have made another "Galapagotizing" decision.

Yesterday, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication (MIC) decided to give 2.5GHz licenses to two groups, one headed by KDDI, utilizing WiMax, and another by WillCom with "Advanced PHS" technology.

In the 90's, NTT tried and failed to make PHS their home-grown technology to be used worldwide.  It did make it to China and some other Asian countries as the cheap fixed wireless alternative, yet it is of very limited use compared to mobile phones.

PHS mostly failed, except for a so-so success by Willcom, with its data plan for PC card modem.  So Willcom does have some expressed interest from its customers for the higher speed connection, but in the larger state of spectrum politics, it looks nothing but another try for Japan's home-grown technology again, with another risk of "Galapagotization".

Even KDDI's WiMax, whose consortium includes Intel - the largest backer of WiMax -, with the growing clouds over mobile WiMax initiative in the United States, may not be the sure bet.  It is a shame to see Japan going further into the Galapagotization, just because it is too advanced and technology decision has to be made much earlier than the rest of the world.

I know that everyone wants to escape from Qualcomm's reign in CDMA monopoly world.  Yes, I know it is politics.  But I am still a bit concerned.

Originally posted on enotech.vox.com