eMobile to strike MVNO deals with ISPs?

30 Oct 2007

Japanese mobile start-up eMobile, a unit of the country’s third largest ISP eAccess, is rumoured to be planning a wholesale HSDPA service for MVNOs, including up to five domestic ISPs, reports Telecompaper.

eAccess won a domestic mobile licence in November 2005 and immediately announced plans to roll out its wireless services in competition with the big three network operators through eMobile. TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database notes that in April 2006 the cellco announced plans to raise JPY42 billion (USD359 million) from issuing new shares to help fund network rollout, adding that it had also secured a JPY220 billion credit line from banks — thought to be the largest non-recourse project-finance loan in Japan. eAccess signed a 3G roaming deal with DoCoMo in October 2006 allowing it to launch a nationwide mobile service, before its own network rollout is complete. eMobile launched on 31 March 2007 by piggybacking on DoCoMo’s network in areas outside the major cities of Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya. The company had signed up around 130,000 data users by October 2007, putting eMobile on course to reach its target of 300,000 users by March 2008. However, the newcomer’s plan to begin offering voice telephony services at that date have been put in jeopardy as a result of difficult and protracted negotiations with DoCoMo on a roaming deal, says eMobile Chairman Sachio Semmoto. The service is still slated for launch ‘sometime in the spring’, but talks are said to be ‘very slow’ due to DoCoMo’s ‘stubborn attitude’. eMobile needs up to three years to complete the rollout of its own network, which currently covers about half of Japan and about 70% of the metropolitan areas, Semmoto said. The company is also in discussions with several handset vendors and has not ruled out the option of striking an exclusive deal with one handset supplier.