Another disruptive innovation by Softbank ?

Softbank Japan audaciously proclaims, in its advertising I spotted at the station: in Japanese, the body copy, ”ケータイが凄いことになりそうです。” that more or less in English meaning (ok, its my take) :”mobile” is going to be disruptive on Oct 1.


Given the number portability between au, docomo, and softbank is to be ope rationalized effective on 10/24 according to CNET Japan, the announcement of Oct 1 might serve as a preliminary statement, and if it is really “凄いこと” (“disruptive” or “chaotic” as I read it), well it is going to be “凄いこと”. Obviously if the new number portability program is so promising, you might be tempted to annouce it earlier than the rest will do and early enough so that it will have the time for WOM to spread well before the launch.

Softbank is known for its penetration pricing; they penetrated ADSL services throughout Japan circa 2001, with the lowest price ever below JPY 3,000 at fixed cost for always on connection, when all the equivalent services were offered around JPY 5,000 -7,000 back in the days many people (myself included) were still using the dial up, cost on a pay-as-you-go basis beyond a certain level of usage for a given month. The following Internet statistics shows how low the broadband penetration was back in 2001 (the diagram I’ve stolen from Impress, now they got the now report out for 2006 in PDF in Japanese)


However, the situation this time is different. It was OK with Broadband, by lowering the price, to increase the penetration virtually zero in 2001 to somewhere around 40% in 2006.

Now the mobile is already penetrated quite well across the nation; everybody has it. Even my daughter at grade 3 has it with docomo kids discount at 1500 yen a month. It might be wise for softbank not to ignite the pricing war; once it started, the industry wise revenue will dilute. Therefore, this time it is not about simply the pricing war but instead it should involve servicing (“disruptive”) war with moderate pricing. That is how I expect this category to evolve.