DoCoMo eyes Octopus Card to extend reach
After enlisting Hutchison Telecommunications International as its 16th global licensee for its mobile internet platform, NTT DoCoMo is hoping to further spread its i-mode mobile phone payment function to Hong Kong by partnering with Octopus Card.
Octopus Card management has already had initial contact with DoCoMo and Hutchison Telecom Hong Kong as its chief executive Eric Tai Yung-muk attended their press conference last week announcing their i-mode partnership.
Takeshi Natsuno, senior vice-president and managing director of multimedia services, said DoCoMo could replicate the success of i-mode and its 'wallet-phone' function in Hong Kong as the same technology is already used here in the form of a smart card.
'Hong Kong people are already used to using contactless smart cards. For Octopus, they [would have cost benefit from] producing less cards as such cost would be absorbed by us,' said Mr Natsuno.
'Wallet-phone' allows users to book tickets, store merchants' membership information and buy snacks with their mobile phones. In Japan, where 12 million of DoCoMo's 46 million i-mode customers are using 'wallet-phones', some Tokyo residents can open the doors to their homes using the same technology built into their handsets.
Octopus Card has issued more than 13 million smart cards, which can now be used not only to pay for a transport ride but also in convenience stores and fast-food chains; they are also used in schools for logging attendance.
There were 8.64 million mobile phones in use in Hong Kong in February.
Mr Natsuno said more talks between Octopus and Hutchison Telecom were necessary to bring about a deal.
Octopus Card is a joint venture by five transport operators, namely, MTR Corp, Kowloon-Canton Railway Corp, Kowloon Motor Bus, Citybus and New World First Bus.
This year, DoCoMo plans to introduce about six types of i-mode-enabled handsets to Hutchison for sale in Hong Kong and Macau.
Hutchison, which has about 500,000 3G users, hopes to boost data revenue to offset declining voice revenue through i-mode.
According to Mr Natsuno, the key to i-mode success largely lies in the operator keeping the content providers happy by allowing them to gain reasonable profit.
'We only take 10-15 per cent commission from content providers, we are very generous to them because if they are happy, it ensures i-mode success,' he said.