Breaking the mold in Japan

Robert Clark
17 May 2010

Best Asian Telecom Carrier

Softbank Mobile

Last year's winner:Orange Business Services
Business segments:2G, 3G mobile voice, data (Japan)
Chairman & CEO:Masayoshi Son
Key shareholders:Softbank Corp. 100%
Key stats:(March 31) 21.9m subs; (2009-10) profit $1.04b, up 124%

It's only fitting that Softbank Mobile has just become the first Japanese operator to report more revenue in data than voice.

Since it began business out of the shell of the old Vodafone KK in 2006, Softbank Mobile has done things it own way in the clubby Japanese market.

It focused on data, it cut prices, it shut down its 2G service, it pioneered the iPhone - dismissed by some as bound to fail in Japan. It started with just 4.8% of the 3G market; it now has more than 20%.

The first thing about this mobile operator is it doesn't consider itself a mobile operator.

As senior executive vice president Ted Matsumoto puts it: "We are not thinking of ourselves as a network operator period. We're a value provider. Value comes from the combination of networks and network capability, handset and services. The three things all come together."

In Japan, mobile operators are the leading integrators and in the best place to create value - that's why Softbank entered the mobile business.

"We came from the internet world knowing that the marriage of internet and mobile will create the biggest future value. We knew the mobile telephone would become the mobile internet; that's why we bought Vodafone."


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