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Drinking to 3G in Japan

Posted by: Ian Rowley on June 20, 2006

NTT DoCoMo’s stock price might be tanking—it reached a 12 month low on June 15—but its 3G subscriber base continues to grow. On June 19, DoCoMo revealed that more than half of its 51 million subscribers are using its 3G FOMA network. That’s also more than rival KDDI’s AU service which has 22.5 million and Vodafone’s 3.5 million.

Still, salarymen who enjoy a surreptitious beer before the long commute home won’t be pleased at DoCoMo’s latest idea to boost 3G sales. The Nihon Keizai Shimbun, Japan’s biggest business daily, reported last week that DoCoMo and Tanita Corp. have developed a new phone device developed to can check if taxi, bus or truck drivers have been drinking alcohol. Drivers breathe into a small sensor attached to one of DoCoMo’s handsets and the results are instantly transmitted to their boss’s PC. If they’ve been drinking, the manager can ensure they don’t drive. There’s no point getting someone else to blow into the phone, either. Managers can watch who does the breathing by using the phone’s video functions. It seems DoCoMo has thought of everything. Well, except perhaps about people that occasionally say they’re “working late” when really they’re in a bar. Hopefully, the $850 price tag will act as a deterrent to domestic take-up…

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BusinessWeek’s team of Asia reporters brings you the latest insights on business, politics, technology and culture from some of the world’s biggest and fastest-growing economies. Eye on Asia’s bloggers include Asia regional editor Bruce Einhorn, Tokyo reporter Ian Rowley, Korea bureau chief Moon Ihlwan, Asia News Editor and China Bureau Chief. Dexter Roberts, and Hong Kong-based Asia correspondent Frederik Balfour.

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