International Spotlight: Japan

Sun, 12/31/2006 - 7:00pm

Note: This is the first in a monthly series that will spotlight top broadband trends and stats for a particular country. On deck for February 2007: Canada.

The big broadband trend in Japan these days, at least when it comes to Internet services, is pure speed–on the order of 100 Mbps in some situations.

FTTH is growing rapidly in Japan, with recent data suggesting that FTTH is adding 10 high-speed Internet subs for every one cable modem and DSL customer combined. Still, cable is still managing to hold its own and gain ground in its service footprints thanks to offerings in the range of from 30 Mbps to 100 Mbps, while DSL has clearly been in decline.

The economics of FTTH (and advanced VDSL services, for that matter) are aided by Japan's population densities, on average two to three times that of New York City, according to people familiar with the Japanese market. Still, some of the benefits of FTTH are lost in many apartments and multi-dwelling units, as fiber-fed services are converted back to copper as they enter the building, resulting in an architecture that better resembles fiber-to-the-building or fiber-to-the-node set-ups.

Here is a quick snapshot of some other major trends as well as some of the primary service operators in Japan.

Japan broadband stats***
  • Broadband service customers–23.3 million
  • FTTH (5.4 million subs)–follows six consecutive quarters of net growth
  • DSL (14.5 million subs)
  • Cable (3.3 million subs)
  • Fixed Wireless Access (~16,068 subs)
  • Roughly 7 million ADSL subscribers and 5 million FTTH customers, as of Sept. 2006.
  • Company is adding about 200,000 FTTH subs per month.
  • Earlier in the year, company officials said FTTH in Japan grew 85 percent year-over-year, versus just 3 percent for ADSL, which, for NTT, was already in a period of "stagnation" by Q1 2005.
  • For video, the company is presently offering services via an RF overlay, but hopes to deploy a full IPTV service during the next couple of years.
Jupiter Telecommunications Co. Ltd. (J:COM)
  • 2.27 million subscribers * in the Sapporo, Kanto, Kansai and Kysushu regions, making it the largest cable MSO in Japan.
  • 25 managed franchises
  • 4.01 million revenue generating units (RGUs) for video, Internet and telephony.
  • RGU breakdown: 1.875 million video subs, 1 million Internet customers, and 1.133 million telephony customers.
  • Launched mobile phone services in March 2006.
  • Special note: Company's "NETHikari" service offers up to 100 Mbps (symmetrical) to multiple dwelling units using a receiver and modem from Panasonic powered by silicon from Entropic Communications. MSO currently researching 100 Mbps service for single-unit subs.
KDDI Corp.
  • Mobile service customers: 25.3 million
  • Company has limited HFC plant, and has launched an EPON-based FTTH service under the "Hikari Plus" brand, offering a suite of video, voice and data services.

eAccess Ltd.

  • Completed purchase of AOL Japan's ISP business in July 2004.
  • Bread and butter is DSL, with service speeds ranging from 1 Mbps down/512 kbps on the low end, to 50 Mbps/5 Mbps on the high end. In the middle, downstream speeds range from 8 Mbps, to 12 Mbps, 24 Mbps, and 40 Mbps.
  • Offers VoIP via DSL.
  • Starting some limited rollouts of FTTH.
SoftBank Corp.
  • An ADSL partnership with Yahoo! has about 5 million cumulative lines installed.**
  • Its fixed-line Softbank Telecom Corp. division (formerly Japan Telecom Co. Ltd.) offers voice, data and private leased circuit services.
SKY PerfecTV
  • Offers video services via two satellites, delivering lineup of 189 TV channels and 101 radio channels.
  • Added DVR to service bundle in Oct. 2006.
  • Offers SKY PerfecTV! HIKARI, a JV with OptiCast and NTT East and NTT West, delivering services via fiber to condos and other areas where installing satellite antennas can be difficult.

*As of Nov. 30, 2006; excludes CableWest Inc. subscribers, which total about 362,800. CableWest became a consolidated subsidiary of J:COM at the end of Sept. 2006.

** As of March 31, 2006

***Data (as of end of March 2006) from Japan's Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.



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