1 Telecommunications Policy 28 (2004) Internet use via mobile phone in Japan Kenichi Ishii* Institute of Policy and Planning Sciences, University of Tsukuba, Tsukuba, Ibaraki , Japan Received 1 October 2002; accepted 1 July 2003 Abstract Approximately 40% of the population enjoy access to the Internet via mobile phones in Japan, where user needs have driven developments of the mobile Internet such as i-mode. After reviewing mobile Internet services in Japan, this article examines key social and cultural factors of mobile Internet use based on nationally representative surveys focusing on differences between PC and mobile Internet. The results demonstrate that mobile Internet is a more time-enhancing activity while PC Internet is a more timedisplacing activity. Additionally, this article discusses unique Japanese cultural factors affecting communication patterns characterized by the high disclosure of subjective self and low disclosure of objective self, which may explain the unique usage patterns of the mobile Internet in Japan. r 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. Keywords: Japan; Mobile phones; Internet; i-mode; Culture; Displacement effect; Self-disclosure 1. Introduction Japan enjoys the highest diffusion rate of mobile Internet 1 in the world (Fig. 1). 2 The number of Internet-enabled mobile phones is over 54 million, which is 77% of the total mobile phones as of June 2002 (Telecommunications Carrier Association, 2002). Major Japanese carriers, NTT DoCoMo, KDDI, and J-Phone, provide a variety of advanced mobile Internet services including global positioning system (GPS), Java applications, picture and video mail, as well as standard and web browsing services. *Tel.: ; fax: address: (K. Ishii). 1 In this article, the term mobile Internet refers to an access to the Internet via mobile phones, excluding PDA and wireless LAN, because the penetration rate of the Internet access via these devices is still almost negligible. For example, the penetration rate of Internet access via PDA was only 1.2% in Japan according to a WIP 2001 survey. 2 Ministry of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications (2002) /$ - see front matter r 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. doi: /j.telpol
2 44 K. Ishii / Telecommunications Policy 28 (2004) Japan Korea Finland Canada Singapore U.S. Germany Italy U.K. Taiwan France Fig. 1. Mobile phone Internet compatibility rate (ratio of the number of subscribers to the mobile Internet to the number of subscribers to mobile phones) in the major countries and regions (as of 2001) (Ministry of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications, 2002). Currently, three major operators provide mobile Internet services in Japan. They are i-mode, Sky-web, and Ez-web. 3 These mobile Internet systems allow for a short message service (non- Internet mail), (Internet mail), web browsing, and additional advanced services such as picture mail Mobile Internet services i-mode, the web access protocol on NTT DoCoMo s terminals, is the most successful mobile Internet access model in the worldwide telecom market. This service, launched in Japan in February 1999, has attracted more than 33 million users three years after the launch. i-mode users number total 600,000 abroad, 500,000 in Europe and 100,000 in Taiwan. In 2001, NTT DoCoMo started i-appli, which is a Java-based service through which subscribers can download and run small Java-applets on their i-mode cellular handsets. In 2001, NTT DoCoMo started 3G mobile phone service, which accesses the Internet at up to 384 kbps using packet transmission that allows for i-mode service. The other major telecommunication operators in Japan, KDDI and J-Phone, also provide mobile Internet services. Table 1 compares the three major Japanese mobile phone Internet systems. Japanese operators are relying increasingly on growing ARPU in data services to offset the sharp drop-off in voice ARPU resulting from intense competition and market maturity. Sky-web launched a webbrowsing service via mobile phone in 1998, a year earlier than i-mode and one year after the launch of a short message service. In 2000, J-Phone featured Sha-mail (picture mail), a service which allowed users to take still photos using a small digital camera built into their mobile phone and send them to other users mobile phones via . In April 2003, the number of subscribers to NTT DoCoMo s picture mail service topped 10 million. Picture mail is especially popular among young people. As of May 2003, over 20 million picture mail handsets are in use in Japan. 3 There are also Internet services for Personal Handy Phone System (PHS), but the web browsing service is not common for PHS.
3 K. Ishii / Telecommunications Policy 28 (2004) Table 1 Comparison of major mobile Internet and 3-G services in Japan Operator NTT DoCoMo J-Phone KDDI Voice ARPU a 6520 yen b 5839 yen c 6390 yen d Data ARPU a 1630 yen b 1433 yen c 930 yen d Internet Service i-mode Sky web EZ-web Number of Subscribers (April 2003) 37,758,000 12,540,500 12,161,800 % of mobile phone users 86.5% 87.0% 77.9% Monthly basic fee 300 yen 0 yen (200 yen for long mail yen e service) Transmission speed of Packet 28.8 Kbps 28.8 Kbps 14.4 Kbps Communication Web fee 0.3 yen/packet 2 yen/1 KB yen/ packet a fee 0.3 yen/packet 3 yen (sending short mail); 0.27 yen/packet 8 yen (sending long mail); 0 yen (receiving) 3-G Service FOMA Vodafone global standard CDMA x Time to start October 2001 December 2002 April 2002 Maximum data transmission speed 384 Kbps 384 Kbps 144 Kbps (downward) Number of subscribers (April 2003) 330,000 25,200 6,805,900 % of users 1.0% 0.2% 52.5% Source: NTT DoCoMo: J-Phone: KDDI: a average monthly revenue per user of mobile phone service. b April June c June d January March e depending on type of user terminal G mobile phone services Following the success of i-mode and other mobile Internet services, major Japanese mobile phone carriers started 3G (third generation) mobile phone services. However, so far, the 3G services have not been successful except for CDMA by KDDI. NTT DoCoMo aimed to have 1.46 million Freedom of Mobile Multimedia Access (FOMA) subscriptions at the end of fiscal year 2002, but it has floundered because FOMA presently supports communications in a limited service area. In contrast, KDDI obtained over 8 million subscribers to its 3G phone service (CDMA ) as of May While FOMA requires new equipment, CDMA only requires the enhancement of existing equipment such as base stations. The biggest appeal of CDMA is that its service can be easily expanded to regions where mobile phone services are already offered. KDDI users can switch to 3G service by adding 300 yen ($2.5) to their current monthly bill. However, the success of KDDI should not be exaggerated. The increase in the number of 3Genabled phones by KDDI resulted from compatibility with the existing service, not from the more
4 46 K. Ishii / Telecommunications Policy 28 (2004) Table 2 Penetration rate of mobile Internet in the total population (for mobile phone users) advanced functionality of the communication service. In fact, the survey data shows that only 0.4% of the population enjoy the 3G high-speed Internet services, although over 8 million people have 3G-enabled handsets (Table 2) Compatible websites One of the technological reasons for the extraordinary success of i-mode is that NTT DoCoMo adopted Compact HTML (C-HTML) as the language for i-mode websites, instead of the more standard Wireless Application Protocol (WAP). C-HTML is a compatible subset of HTML for terminals. NTT DoCoMo s i-mode enables content providers to more easily enter the market than WAP, because it is easier to create i-mode websites in C-HTML than in WAP. According to NTT DoCoMo s report, more than 50,000 websites are available with i-mode terminals. Because of the extraordinary popularity of i-mode in Japan, other operators, J-Phone and KDDI, have also adopted a protocol which enables the viewing of i-mode websites Billing system Penetration rate in the total population (in mobile phone users) (%) Average age of users Mobile Internet (i-mode, etc.) 36.3 (52.8) Mail use via mobile phones 36.6 (52.8) Web access via mobile phone 33.5 (48.3) PC Internet Both mobile and PC Internet G mobile phone 0.4 (0.6) Source: WIP Japan Survey (2002). Percentage of male (%) i-mode has a billing system through which content providers are able to focus on creating quality content to attract more consumers. There are three kinds of charges for i-mode services: the monthly subscription fee, the packet transmission fee, and the i-mode information fee. The monthly subscription fee is 300 yen. The packet transmission charges are calculated according to the volume of data transmitted, not the transmission time. The cost is based on the total number of data packets sent and received, irrespective of the connection time. Each data packet (128 bytes) costs 0.3 yen (0.025 cents). i-mode information charges are flat-rate monthly charges varying from site to site, mainly ranging from 100 to 300 yen per month. The i-mode information charges are billed by the operator on behalf of the information service providers. 2. Purpose of the study The purpose of this article is to explore social and cultural factors in mobile Internet use in Japan. Most previous research has examined mobile phones mainly from a technological or
5 K. Ishii / Telecommunications Policy 28 (2004) economic perspective, whereas only a limited number of studies have focused on social and cultural factors. However, telecommunication technology is not always accepted by customers exactly like the government or operators intended. For example, personal handy phone system (PHS) was not used by Japanese customers as the government s guidelines had expected, because users perceived it differently than intended (Ishii, 1996). Neither technology nor Japanese government policy can explain the widespread use of the mobile Internet in Japan where it is quite uniquely used. Central concerns of this study are: (1) how is the mobile Internet used in Japan? (2) What are the differences in mobile Internet and PC Internet use? (3) How do cultural factors affect mobile Internet use in Japan? 3. Methods In this article, the following two nationally representative surveys will be referenced: (1) The World Internet Project (WIP) Japan Survey was conducted nationwide in Japan in November 2000, November 2001, and November The respondents were chosen from a probability sample whose ages ranged from 12 to 74 years. The number of successful respondents in 2000, 2001, and 2002 are 2555, 2816, and 2333, respectively. (2) The Internet Use Survey was conducted nationwide in Japan by the Internet Paradox Research Group in November The respondents were also chosen from a probability sample whose ages ranged from 12 to 69 years. The number of respondents was 1878 a response rate of 62.6%. 4. Mobile Internet users According to the WIP Japan Survey in 2002, 36.3% of the total population (52.8% of mobile phone users) access the Internet via mobile phones, while 38.8% of the total population access the Internet via PCs. As of December 2002, 82% of mobile phone users subscribed to Internet provider systems (Telecommunications Carrier Association, 2003). However, the survey results showed that the rate of Internet use via mobile phones is much lower (52.8%), because many subscribers do not actually use the service. There is significant overlap between users of the PC Internet and mobile Internet. 65% of mobile Internet users (23.6% of the total population) use both PCs and mobile phones to access the Internet (Fig. 2). The mobile Internet occupies 26.1% of the total time spent on the Internet. A weekly average time spent on the mobile Internet is 43.6 min, while a weekly average time spent on the PC Internet is min (Fig. 3). 4 In the survey conducted in 2002, respondents were randomly split into two groups, and a different edition of questionnaire was used for each group. Thus, some questions were asked only half of the total respondents (1164 and 1169). The WIP Japan Survey was conducted by a research group including the author. The study was designed to do a comparative study for the World Internet Project and was financially supported by Communications Research Laboratory. The research group published survey reports (The World Internet Project Japan, 2001, 2002, 2003). These reports are available at 5 The Internet Use Survey was conducted by Internet Paradox research group which included the author and was headed by Prof. Yoshiaki Hashimoto (Hashimoto et al. (2002)).
6 48 K. Ishii / Telecommunications Policy 28 (2004) Age Gender PC Internet Mobile Internet 71.6 Male Female Education Middle High. High School Junior College University or higher Fig. 2. Penetration rates (%) of PC Internet and mobile Internet by demographic factors (Source: WIP Japan Survey, 2002) Total Users Web via PC Webvia Mobile Phone Mail via PC Mail via Mobile Phone Fig. 3. Average time spent on the Internet (minutes per week; Source: WIP Japan Survey, 2002). The mobile Internet is especially popular among young people. Mobile Internet users have an average age of 32.2 while PC Internet users are an average age of Mobile Internet users are more likely to be female than PC Internet users. Less than half (48.1%) of mobile Internet users are male while 56.2% of PC Internet users are male.
7 About half of all mobile Internet users used (excluding non-internet short messages) and web browsing via mobile phones; the main usage of the mobile Internet is . Looking at Fig. 3, time spent on web browsing via mobile phone is only one third of that spent on via mobile phone Time and location Selected Japanese media say that the unique usage of the mobile Internet is due to long commuting time in Japan. Comparative time-diary survey results show that commuting time on weekdays for those who work is greatest in Japan (NHK Broadcasting Culture Research Institute, 1995). However, contrary to popular belief, the long commuting time alone cannot explain the high diffusion rate of the mobile Internet in Japan; a time-diary survey on Internet use in the Internet Use Survey demonstrates that more than half mobile Internet use is from home, whereas only a limited amount of time was spent during commuting hours (Fig. 4). In other words, only 10% of total mobile Internet use was performed when the respondents were traveling on a train or bus Browsing websites K. Ishii / Telecommunications Policy 28 (2004) PC web users (those who access at least one category of Internet sites via PCs) habitually access an average of 8.64 categories of Internet sites, while mobile web users (those who access at least one category of Internet sites via mobile phones) access an average of 3.58 websites. In other words, websites visited via PCs are more varied and plentiful than those visited via mobile web users. Access rates for each category of websites via PC and via mobile phones are illustrated in Table 3. These rates are computed regarding each web user via the corresponding medium (PC or mobile phone). A search engine (85.2%) is the most frequently visited site via PC, followed by Fig. 4. Location for mobile Internet use (%).
8 50 K. Ishii / Telecommunications Policy 28 (2004) Table 3 Access rates (%) of web sites via PC and mobile phone Category PC a Mobile phone b Search engine Transportation information/maps News Weather PC Online shopping Information about other products Sightseeing/traveling Business/economy Working Education Employment information Government and public services Political activities Sports Music/concerts information Movie TV program Medical information Health/fitness Religion Computer games Adult Personal homepages Science Prize/gift Cooking Child rearing Books Gambling Comics/animation Fortune telling Matchmaking Average number of accessed web sites for those who have accessed at least one category Source: WIP Japan Survey (2001). a Rates are computed for respondents who accessed any category of websites via a PC. b Rates are computed for respondents who accessed any category of websites via a mobile phone. weather information (50.5%) and transportation information/maps (49.9%), while a search engine (45.3%) is also the top category via mobile phones, followed by weather (38.0%) and music/concert information (29.0%). Rates are generally higher for PC than for mobile phones except for fortune telling (23.5%) and matchmaking (8.0%). Overall, life style information is preferred via mobile phones, whereas business information is preferred via PCs.
9 4.3. via mobile phone K. Ishii / Telecommunications Policy 28 (2004) is used quite differently when accessed via PCs and mobile phones. Users exchange with fewer people via mobile phones than via PCs. They send to an average of 5.5 addressees via mobile phone, while they send to an average of 8.6 addressees via PC (Table 4). Despite fewer addresses, more messages are sent via mobile phones than via PC; s are sent via mobile phone in a week while 15.2 are sent via PC. These results suggest that more mail is sent to a smaller number of intimate friends via mobile phones. Table 5 also shows that is more often sent to close friends who are frequently seen or family members via mobile phones than via PCs Comparison of personal communication media To communicate with friends in daily life, we use a wide array of personal communication media such as a fixed-line telephone, a mobile phone (voice), via mobile phone, via PC, a facsimile, and post mail. To compare the usage and functions of these media, detailed questions were asked of respondents in the Internet Use Survey (Hashimoto, Kimura, Ishii, & Kim 2002; Mobile Communication Research Group, 2002). Respondents were asked the names of their 10 closest friends (or relatives, excluding immediate family members) who did not live with them, and asked (1) gender and age of each friend (or relative), (2) media by which they usually communicate with each friend, (3) frequency of face-to-face contact with each friend, and (4) travel time to each friend from his/her home by normal transportation mode. Table 6 summarizes the results. Table 4 Number of s and addressees Mobile phone Number of s sent in a week Number of addressees Source: WIP Japan Survey Table 5 addressee to whom is most often sent (single answer) PC Mobile phone (%) PC (%) Friends whom you usually see Friends whom you do not usually see Boy friends/girl friends Spouse Family members People who are working in your office People whom you contact for business Others Source: WIP Japan Survey (2002).
10 52 Table 6 Characteristics of friends by communication media Communication media with friends Total number of friends Rate of the same gender (%) Average of absolute difference of age Average frequency of faceto-face communication with the corresponding friend in a week Fixed-line telephone Mobile phone Mail via mobile phone Mail via PC Chat on the Internet Fax Letter Source: Internet Use Survey. Average time (in min) to see face-to-face the corresponding friend K. Ishii / Telecommunications Policy 28 (2004) ARTICLE IN PRESS
11 K. Ishii / Telecommunications Policy 28 (2004) * The respondents most frequently see friends or relatives with whom they communicate through via mobile phone (2.2 times per week), whereas they less frequently see friends or relatives with whom they communicate by via PC (1.2 times per week). * Friends or relatives with whom they communicate by via mobile phone live in a geographically closer location (77.6 min of travel time) than those with whom they communicate by PC mail (100.4 min). * Ages of friends (or relatives) communicating by via mobile phone are closer to the respondent s age, than if communicating via PC mail. These results demonstrate that among the wide array of personal communication media, the mobile Internet is the medium used to communicate with the closest friends or relatives whom the respondents most often see face to face. Iwata (2002) also found that frequency of use of mobile phones and mobile mail is positively correlated to the number of close friends while frequency of use of PC mail is not correlated to the number of close friends. They show that the PC Internet and the mobile Internet contrast in terms of communication media; PC is exchanged with psychologically and geographically distant friends, whereas mobile is exchanged with more intimate friends. 5. Discussion technology, policy, and user needs The history of the mobile Internet in Japan shows that user needs have promoted the mobile Internet in Japan, rather than technology or policy. As shown previously, basic technology (C- HTML) for i-mode is not advanced but simple. Most users connect their mobile phones to the Internet only at 28,000 bps. Quicker connection by the 3G (third generation) mobile phone service is not yet popular (The World Internet Project Japan, 2003). Government policy has emphasized technological development of mobile phone systems such as PHS and IMT-2000, whereas the policy has never given much attention to user needs. In the case of i-mode, NTT DoCoMo did not push new technology but focused on services rather than selling technology (Steinbock, 2003). The government had to introduce new regulations to protect against serious problems with the mobile Internet. Spam mail is a more serious problem for mobile phone users than for PC users in Japan, because the cost of receiving is much higher for mobile phones (see Table 1). According to a news report, of an average 950 million messages a day handled by NTT DoCoMo in October 2001, about 800 million were addressed to non-existent receivers. 6 Legislation to crack down on junk was put into effect in However, according to a survey conducted by NTT DoCoMo, the ratio of illegal to legal ads remained unchanged, indicating that the new legislation is too weak to fight spam. 7 The number of crimes involving Internet matchmaking sites soared in A report issued by the National Police Agency (NPA) uncovered a total of 1,731 incidents involving Internet dating 6 The Japan Times Online, December 26,2002 (retrieved from nn b6.htm). 7 The Japan Times Online, September 25,2002 (retrieved from nn a8.htm).
12 54 K. Ishii / Telecommunications Policy 28 (2004) sites in The report also showed that about 97 percent of the people who accessed the sites did so through mobile phones. In an effort to curb the number of crimes involving the sites, the Diet enacted the Internet matchmaking site regulation law in June Unique communication patterns in Japan Internet-enabled phones, such as WAP (Wireless Access Protocol), are not yet accepted in other countries as much as in Japan. Why was the mobile Internet accepted so early in Japan? One of the key factors is the unique communication pattern among Japanese people Group-oriented nationality Most previous studies on the effects of the Internet found a negative influence of Internet use on sociability. Greater use of the Internet was associated with a decline in users communication with family members in the household, and a decline in the size of their social circle (Kraut et al., 1998); the more time Internet users spent on the Internet, the less time they shared at meals and watching TV with family members (Weng, 2002). As opposed to studies on the PC Internet undertaken elsewhere, investigations in Japan found that mobile media users are more active in personal communications. Pager and PHS users are more active in personal communication than non-users (Nakamura, 1997). Mobile phone users are more sociable and more interested in the latest fashion than non-users (Hashimoto et al., 2000). Use of via mobile phones enhances sociability among university students, both for women and men (Tsuji & Mikami, 2001). The WIP Japan Survey results are consistent with these previous studies on mobile media users in Japan. Table 7 shows that the PC Internet and the mobile Internet contrast in terms of effects on sociability, such as time spent with family and time spent with friends. Results of regression analyses show that the mobile Internet has a significantly positive effect on amount of time spent with friends, whereas the PC Internet has a significantly positive effect on time spent with family. In other words, contrary to previous studies in the United States and other countries, the Internet has a positive effect on sociability in Japan. This is, however, nuanced, with the PC Internet promoting socializing with family members while the mobile Internet appears to promote socializing with friends From beru-tomo (pager friend) to Sha-mail (picture mail) In the mid-1990s, it was very common for Japanese high school students to have chats with their distant friends called beru-tomo (pager friends) using pagers. Beru-tomo did not know each other s names and had never met, but they constantly exchanged messages by pagers every day, reporting their daily news and feelings to each other. According to Nakamura (1997), 17% of high school students had beru-tomo in When personal handy phone (PHS) and mobile phones became more popular than pagers, they switched to these new media in order to conduct virtual 8 Mainichi Daily News, February 6, 2003.
13 K. Ishii / Telecommunications Policy 28 (2004) Table 7 Regression analysis of life time use (regression coefficients) Dependent variable Independent variable Time spent with family (min) Time spent with friends (min) Internet use by PC (min) Internet use by mobile phone (min) Gender (M ¼ 0; F ¼ 1) Age Education a Marriage (yes=1, no=0) po0:05; po0:01; po0:001: University or higher =1; otherwise=0. Fig. 5. Examples of picture characters. chats with meru-tomo ( friends) using . Tsuji and Mikami (2001) reported that 14% of university students in Tokyo and Osaka had meru-tomo in According to a nationally representative survey in 2001, 7.2% of mobile users had a virtual friend (Mobile Communication Research Group, 2002). These virtual relationships (beru-tomo and meru-tomo) are unique in that they do not disclose objective self (name, address, etc.) but disclose only their subjective self (emotional state) in frequent messages. An example of the Japanese inclination to disclose emotional states is seen in frequent use of picture characters in over mobile phones. Picture characters are nonstandard characters like smiley in English. They are specially designed for via mobile phones by the operators. Most of the characters are used to visually express emotion in (Fig. 5). The success of Sha-mail (picture mail via mobile phone terminal) is also related to the preference for emotional communication through the mobile Internet between close friends among young Japanese people. Picture mail is a service that sends photo images taken by a builtin digital camera in the mobile phone terminal to another terminal. When J-Phone started Shamail service in 2000, it was the first image transmission service in the mobile communications
14 56 K. Ishii / Telecommunications Policy 28 (2004) Table 8 Comparison of degree of self-disclosure in personal homepages among three languages located on Yahoo Language Japanese US English Chinese Probability for F statistics N Name a 45.1% 58.6% 58.6% Gender 18.2% 24.3% 43.8% Age 41.6% 31.5% 54.6% Home address 1.4% 17.9% 5.7% Diary 23.5% 8.3% 3.7% Essay 67.1% 36.9% 21.5% po0:001; po0:01: a Both surname and first name. industry. Since then, the number has increased rapidly and exceeded 4 million in March Following the success of Sha-mail, the other major companies, KDD and NTT DoCoMo, also started picture mail services in A reason for the success of picture mail is that young Japanese enjoy communicating and sharing memories on the spot. A similar pattern was also found in a study of personal websites. A content analysis was carried out using personal web pages randomly selected from Japanese, English, and Chinese language sites located by the popular search engine Yahoo! (Ishii, Hashimoto, Mikami, Tsuji, & Mori, 2000; Ishii, 2000). The study found that Japanese websites showed the lowest level of selfdisclosure of objective personal information such as name and gender, but the highest level of subjective self-disclosure such as a diary and essays (Table 8). A striking result is that approximately a quarter of Japanese sites had diaries. These patterns reflect a conflicting feeling that young Japanese seek to enjoy communication by expressing personal feelings but want to avoid direct contact with friends. Tsuji (1996) likened the paradoxical attitude of young Japanese to Shoepenhauer s hedgehog dilemma, inferring that they hurt each other in close relationships while they are frozen in distant relationships. Pagers and are convenient media for people with such a paradoxical attitude, because using these media, they can communicate personal feelings while avoiding face to face contact as well as concealing their objective self. Ambivalent feelings about serious relationships with friends may be a key to understanding the unique pattern of Japanese mobile use. 7. Conclusions In Japan, the mobile Internet has grown more rapidly than the PC Internet. Mobile phones have evolved from just voice-only devices to personal digital assistants with digital cameras, GPS, clocks, alarms, calendars, mailers, and Internet browsers. By contrast, handheld PCs and PDAs are not popular mobile Internet devices in Japan. Compared to the high penetration rate of the mobile Internet, the rate of PC Internet use is relatively low (38.8%). The point is that the Japanese mobile Internet has evolved from mobile phones and pagers (e.g., pager friends), rather