Theoretical Framework assignment

10 May

Project: What make Japan become most mature and sophisticated mobile market than other countries? : The evolution from telegraph to mobile phone in Japan 


When talking about mobile phone market and development, it is inevitable for not mentioning Japan, a very unique country of mobile phone market. According to “The comScore 2010 Mobile Year in Review” (Radwanick, 2011), “the Japan market is perhaps one of the most mature and sophisticated mobile market in the world with mobile audience accustomed to using mobile media regularly.” (p.19) Compare to U.S. and EU, the top three mobile handset in Japan is quite different. They are Sharp, Panasonic and Fujitsu and with one thing in common: they are all made in Japan. Why are Japanese so faithful to their domestically manufactured phones? Is there any government policies or Japanese cultural influences on this unique phenomenon? Or do the mobile web services in Japan influence their user behavior on buying mobile phones?

Three most important developments in my timeline:

The research will discuss from past, present and future aspect to discover what are the main reasons to mold this unique mobile phone environment in Japan and what is the future of it.

Nineteenth-century ~ 1999

From past, the research will briefly introduce the origins of mobile phone invention – telegraph and telephone history in Japan and try to find out how did government policies from nineteenth-century telegraph impact the twentieth-century mobile phone market.

1999 ~ 2007

For current situation, in order to understand how different of mobile phone market in Japan, the research will discuss the unique mobile service and network, i-Mode, in Japan to discover the reasons.


For the future, the research wants to discuss about what impact will happen to Japan’s mobile phone market after smartphones, especially iPhone has been invented in 2007.

The course theories best explain what has happened/might happen in my project

 Self-sufficient telecommunication Country (Nineteen-century ~ 1999)

In 1870, Japanese government first got the information about the new technology “telegraph” from western countries and immediately realized that Japan needed to build the same telecommunication infrastructure to increase their national power. However, Japanese government didn’t want to rely on western technology only, they had longer plan and determination to build their own telecommunication system. Hence, they introduced the technology of telegraph from western and learned the skills from foreign engineers. Not only learning from western, Japanese government also invested lots of money and resources to establish the firm called “Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Company”(NTT) to control all the business related to the telegraph infrastructure. (Anchordoguy, 2001) In this part, the research will use Christensen’s theory “The important nonmarket context for innovation” to discuss about the role of Japanese government in the telegraph and telephone technology development process and how this management influence the telecommunication environment for the current mobile phone market.

Unique mobile phone market (1999 ~ 2007)

After NTT company was established by government in nineteen-century; it has played a very important role in Japan’s telecommunication industry. From telegraph to telephone, with strong support from government it continues developing its telecom business. For example, NTT launched the first commercially automated cellular network (the 1G generation) in the world in 1979. (Wikipedia, 2011) Furthermore, NTT established its subsidiary company called NTT DoCoMo in 1992 and launched its first cellular phone in the next year. However, the most important achievement of NTT DoCoMo is that it launched “i-Mode” service on mobile phone. “i-Mode” is a comprehensive mobile Internet service including restaurant information and booking, person to person emails…etc. While United States and European countries still struggled in the fragmented set of mobile phone network, service standard and slow adoption of Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) for wireless Internet uses, i-Mode already dominates the Japanese mobile phone market and it has nearly 63 million users until 2003. (Barnes & Huff, 2003) The research will discuss this interesting “i-Mode service” by using the theory of Roger’s five steps of adoption to find out how Japanese adopted this service on their mobile phone and what reasons make i-Mode so popular in Japan. On the other hand, the paper will also talk about Metcalfe’s Law of i-Mode. It’s obviously that more and more people use i-Mode, the service grows faster and bigger. At this situation, “network effect” plays the crucial role than handset itself.

Will iPhone take over Japan’s mobile phone market? (2007~ future)

There is no doubt that iPhone has dramatically changed the users behaviors of mobile phone since it launched in 2007 by Apple. Hence, what impacts have happened after 2007 in Japan’s mobile phone market becomes very interesting to discuss. According to the article “Why the Japanese hate iPhone” in 2008, iPhone was not popular in Japan in the beginning because of its low quality camera and unfashionable design (compare to Japanese’s cell phones) and even was offered by free handset with carrier’s package. (Chen, 2008) However, the latest report “Smartphone may transform Japan’s mobile market” in 2010 indicated that there is a trend that mobile market in Japan is gradually changing now. The report mentioned that smartphone such as iPhone and Android phone recently lead the change in Japan’s mobile market. Along with the Softbank, the rival of NTT DoCoMo, is going to provide the smartphone-based services for Japanese users in coming months and it should be a big impact to current mobile market. (Kumar, 2010) Hence, the research will use another Roger’s theory “How ideas diffuse” to discuss about the iPhone usage in Japan. Now, the iPhone penetration rate in Japan is only around 3% and should be in “innovators” period. However, will it possible to take over the Japan’s mobile market with its huge potential? What will be the “Chasm” for iPhone between early adopters and early majority in Japan? On the flip side, the Japanese manufacture’s mobile phones seems already reach the third decade of the Fidler’s theory “30 year rule” which is “standardization” period. What will the fate of Japanese manufactured mobile phones in the future?

How has my timeline changed?

From my preliminary proposal, I didn’t set up very clear timeline of my project because it is too board and tried to compare Japan and United States. Now, I narrow down the project scope to focus on Japan mobile market and it has clearer timeline as following:

Past – from mid-nineteenth-century to 1999 (i-Mode launched)

Present – from 1999 to 2007 (the first iPhone came out)

Future – from 2007 to the future 


Anchordoguy, M. (2001) Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Company (NTT) and the Building of a Telecommunications Industry in Japan. The Business History Review, Vol. 75, No. 3 , pp. 507-541. The President and Fellows of Harvard College.

Barnes, S. J. & Huff, S, L. (2003) Rising Sun: i-Mode and the wireless Internet. Communication of the ACM, Vol. 46, No. 11, pp.79-84. New Zealand, Victoria University of Wellington

Chen, B. X. (2009) Why the Japanese hate iPhone. Retrieved from

Ishii, K. (2004) Internet use via mobile phone in Japan. Telecommunications Policy, 28 ,pp.43–58. Japan, University of Tsukuba.

Jeffrey L. F. (2006) Mobile Phone Industry: A Microcosm of Deregulation, Globalization, and Technological Change in the Japanese Economy. Tokyo, Hitotsubashi University.

Kumar, S. (2004) Mobile communications: global trends in the 21st century. Int. J. Mobile Communication, Vol. 2, No. 1, pp.67-84. Minneapolis, College of Business, University of St. Thomas.

Kumar, V. P. (2010) Smartphone may transform Japan’s mobile market. Retrieved from

Radwanick, S. (2011) The comScore 2010 Mobile Year in Review.

Wikipedia (2011) History of mobile phone. Retrieved from


2 Responses to “Theoretical Framework assignment”

  1. Kathy E. Gill 05/10/2011 at 4:22 pm #

    Hi, Coco – I agree that Rogers probably makes the most sense for a theoretical framework when you are looking at consumer adoption. But when you are looking at the differences in the regulatory environments of US/Japan, you probably want to take a look at Winston.


  1. Project Methodologies « COM546 : Evolutions - 05/10/2011

    […] Coco (Ko Yun) –  Theoretical Framework assignment  […]

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