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Highly Mobile
Posted: 24-Jan-2000 [Source: Forbes]

[Is Japan in the lead with mobile internet? Here is an interesting report from Forbes.]

By Benjamin Fulford -- "TO SEE THE FUTURE OF CELLULAR telephones in America--come to Japan. There you can indulge in digital dating via live, recorded or written messages; participate in interactive talk shows and live auctions; get the latest reports on stock prices, horse races and the weather; or place an ad for an anonymous rendezvous. These are some of nearly 200 services offered by the world's largest content provider for the mobile Internet, a company virtually unknown in the West called Mobilephone Communications International (MTI).

"Tokyo-based MTI is the creation of 34-year-old Toshihiro Maeta. "Within a few years there will be more phones than computers connected to the World Wide Web," he says. A mechanical engineer who attended Chiba University, Maeta showed his preference for telecom in 1988 by quitting IBM, where he was a database engineer, and going to work at Hikari Tsushin to sell mobile phones. In 1996, using his 600,000 shares in Hikari as collateral for loans, Maeta founded MTI, selling handsets on commission for telecoms, advertising them in magazines and offering them as prizes in raffles near amusement parks.

"But even then he was preparing Internet content for the coming generation of digital phones, aiming to grab turf early by offering free as well as low-cost information services. MTI provides content in the most popular formats--Wireless Application Protocol and WideBand CDMA among them--and sends Web pages so they can be read on different-size screens, including the tiny ones on mobile devices.

"Maeta managed to catch precisely the moment of conversion from analog to digital phones. Today there are 53 million digital cell phones in Japan, the world's leader in mobile e-mail. The number of people using MTI's services, 1.4 million as of April, has been growing 330% a year. The company had a gross margin of 63% on revenues of $70 million in 1999. Since first offered to the public in October on the Tokyo over-the-counter market, its shares have risen 67-fold to more than $2 million, or 2,500 times trailing earnings. Maeta's worth on paper: $4.5 billion.

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