Site: Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MPT) Headquarters
1-3-2, Kasumigaseki, Chiyoda-ku
Tokyo 100-90, Japan

Date Visited: June 6, 1997

WTEC: W. Brandon (report author), J. Pelton, W. Roseman



Mix of Services

M. Matsumoto, presiding, introduced Mr. Yamaguchi who was representing broadcasting for Mr. Katayi. The team was told that Japan has an extensive analog direct broadcast system in place and intends to broadcast digital high definition TV by about 2000. PerfecTV broadcast was initiated in June 1996. DirecTV has 99 channels approved and 79 are now being broadcast. It is anticipated that others, such as SKY, will enter the market, and still further globalization will occur.

New filings for U.S. systems can be characterized as either "direct broadcast" with multimedia or as multimedia satellites providing TV (i.e., there is a blurring of service boundaries). The team asked about the Japanese position with regard to this kind of crossover of services. These are recognized as good and important questions, which are under discussion. However, the main concern is to achieve a $1,000 two way terminal. Internet download is recognized as important. In the near future, one transponder may be shared for this service (Internet download) with other services. This issue is regarded as one of categorizing, but Japan will not reject services because of a problem in semantics. With regard to whether MPT will provide entertainment broadcast while NTT (or NHK) enters the telecommunications market, the team was told that NTT has not applied (to MPT) for a license for this kind of service. This matter has not yet been discussed at MPT. NHK is a special organization established by law; therefore its nature is different from a private company. If it starts telecommunications activities, a change in the law would be required, which is a big issue. NHK representatives have visited MPT and shown the use of different channels for Internet, e-mail, TV, etc. (i.e., no mixing of services). NTT, with its own satellites, is very active in experimentation for multimedia services. MPT does not know when NTT will start services, but "possibly NTT will provide these services in the future," and it is also likely that NTT will provide integrated services.

Globalization, digitization, and personalization (delivery of services direct to consumer) are 3 major trends. The combination of the first 2 of these, including digital video, raises the issue of how the MPT defines domestic services because it may have international implications about market access. MPT sees broadcasting as being excluded from negotiations, but in March 1997 an agreement was reached. It should be noted that the division between broadcast and telecommunications also holds in the United States and Europe. The U.S. satellite industry thinks that the Internet is a key to the future. Europe has sought a broad exclusion on video. In the United States the Internet is seen as basic telecommunications. With regard to the satellite industry and the communications industry, the issues intertwine; government institutions have evolved to mirror industry. But in the new era, things become integrated. Asked how the Japanese government will respond to the issue of whether broadcast encompasses or incorporates telecommunications or vice versa, the team was told that MPT recognizes the need to respond to this, and that the matter is now in discussion with international treaty organizations.

The team asked if Article 14 of the INTELSAT and Inmarsat treaties is still relevant. Mr. Yamaguchi (representing mobile speaking for international affairs) said that INTELSAT and Inmarsat were discussing changes; that INTELSAT was to transfer some of its satellites to subsidiaries. At a previous meeting the general assembly of INTELSAT had planned to decide the number of satellites but failed to reach an agreement. A working group that studied the problem had recommended 3 to 6, and this range, rather than a specific number, had been agreed. MPT's position on the view that INTELSAT and Inmarsat are no longer needed is, according to Mr. Yamaguchi, that MPT has no clear vision or opinion on privatization, but that if safety, etc. has continuity, MPT could consider privatization, but GMDSS must be preserved.

Licensing, Regulatory, and Policy Issues

Regarding roaming and free use of handheld terminals, Japan has passed a reform to the radio law granting a "blanket or class license." For terminals imported for temporary use (i.e., by a business traveler), users would have a simple procedure and the MRA would be waived. An important area for which there is yet no consensus is that of "mutually authorizing exports/imports" (i.e., can equipment approved in the United States be imported into Japan?). Mr. Sone stated that basic things like Eb/No sensitivity and noise floor would be specified (regulated).

Asked about the licensing of unsymmetrical service, like DirecPC, having a 400 kbps downlink and 16 kbps uplink, the team was told that, for receive only terminals, there are no specific regulations on analog transmission. For transmission by a USAT or VSAT, regulations already exist. If a terminal is found to abide by standards, a type acceptance can be granted. If not, the licensing procedure is similar to that for taxis or LMS.

In discussing long-term regulatory and policy issues Mr. Matsumoto said that an important job function of the MPT is to develop new satellite applications, not just provide regulations. The new LEO systems project a large market for the next century; therefore, spectrum issues will be paramount. MPT is thinking about technology issues for LEOs, and, again, spectrum is an issue. In 1992 and 1995, more spectrum was obtained due to Teledesic and Iridium. However, it appears necessary to rethink and review the process and the allocations. There is a question about what is the best avenue to international consensus

Response to a question about the populations of satellite receivers, the WTEC team was told that, for analog DBS TV, there are 10 million terminals in service; for digital reception (i.e., PerfecTV), there are presently 300 to 400 thousand receivers in service. Related news articles indicated that NHK had reached 300 thousand units in the fall of 1996, a few months later than the original plan; the 400 thousand is probably a conservative estimate.

Published: December 1998; WTEC Hyper-Librarian