Anytime, Everywhere

Reading time ( words)

Ubiquitous: Existing or being everywhere, especially at the same time; omnipresent.

This is a word not frequently used--it doesn’t even exist in my word bank. However, it's a word that best describes the ability for us to be everywhere thanks to tablet PCs and smartphones. We are globally connected; breaking news from around the world can be communicated and viewed within seconds of it happening. This global network grew with help from Apple’s iPad and was fueled by the expansion of WiFi service.

Ten years ago it was difficult to find WiFi service in public areas throughout Japan. Nowadays, we can find WiFi signals in almost any public place, including airports, train stations, hotels, shopping malls, restaurants, and more. WiFi service is now even offered on airplanes!    

Living in this ubiquitous society is not free. WiFi services in Japan are expensive and the price is always increasing. Providers try to lock us into long-term contracts by making the “pay as you go” plans unaffordable. You can hop onto the Internet for free by visiting an Apple store or a café. Even fast food restaurants now offer free WiFi as a way to attract customers. However, most of us want to connect instantly and always have a signal. That’s why WiFi service providers in Japan continue to prosper.

Can this kind of WiFi service in Japan continue in the long-term? The business model in the U.S. is one to which Japan will eventually evolve. In the U.S., Burger King and Wendy’s began offering WiFi services because they saw their customer base eroding. Many customers wanted to connect to the Internet for free while dining. The travel industry also realized the importance of offering free WiFi--trains and long distance bus services are now equipped with on-board WiFi. 

Airports used to charge for WiFi service, but switched to a free WiFi model. As a customer, you have two choices: If you want free WiFi, you must listen to advertising; however, you can swipe your credit card and pay for WiFi if you want to eliminate the advertising. Airports upgraded gates by increasing the number of power ports. Devices can now be charged without waiting for an outlet to become available.

The WiFi service in airplanes is not free yet, but I believe it will be in the near future. The WiFi service in the U.S. became an advertising tool for businesses.

WiFi service companies in Japan are maintaining their customer base, but they should understand the IT world moves quickly. There's always something new and a company that can offer you services for less. The WiFi business may not last forever for some of these companies. I'm an example of this--I terminated my current WiFi contract last month because I found one less expensive.

Dominique K. Numakura,
DKN Research,

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