1. While the Japanese and South Koreans have aggressively cleared real estate on the wireless spectrum specifically for lightning-fast, third- generation systems (3G), our FCC has taken a more laissez-faire approach toward the big carriers’ use of bandwidth. The result is an electromagnetic soup where our existing second-generation (2G) networks jockey for position with UHF channels, digital TV broadcasts, emergency/medical networks and even garage door openers. The FCC recently announced that it won’t auction space for true 3G networks until the middle of 2006. Meanwhile, DoCoMo is already mapping out a staggeringly fast 4G network that will allow users to download data at speeds of 100 megabytes to 1 gigabyte per second.
2. The second reason is simply that American consumers may not covet or need cutting-edge phones as much as their Asian counterparts do. A large proportion of the Japanese population experienced the Internet for the first time when DoCoMo launched its i-mode service in 1999, and handsets remain their most popular portal to cyberspace. In this country we tend to do our surfing on “big screens,” which gives us less incentive to exploit our phones’ Internet features. As of Q3 2004, wireless data services — text messaging, Internet surfing, etc. — accounted for 8 percent of Sprint PCS’s average revenue per user; the American industry average is even lower. DoCoMo’s, on the other hand, make up almost 25 percent of average revenue per user.
3. Asian consumers tend to place a higher value on phones as high-tech fashion accessories, jumping to purchase the latest products with the most unique, experimental functions. Americans, meanwhile, tend to opt for value and reliability.