"Mobile voice will be given away" - Japanese keynoter Son scares operators at MWC

by Guy J Kewney | posted on 14 February 2008

"When we say Internet, it means mobile," proclaimed Masayoshi Son during his third-day keynote here at Mobile World Congress. "The implication is that mobile networks will carry more data than voice traffic, and voice will be offered free. We're already doing this on the Softbank network in Japan."

His comments aroused hilarity, rising to fury, here at the show. One consultant - asking for anonymity - said: "The European networks make little or no money out of mobile Internet, and are all returning their focus to voice and texts. It's absurd to suggest that the huge revenues they make from voice should be abandoned."

Masayoshi Son runs the Softbank Group, which is remembered by former employees of Comdex and ZD as being the main cause of their unemployment. Son bought ZD when it was the world's most powerful tech media company, and by a process of what The Economist called "financial engineering, destroyed both it and Comdex, which had been the world's biggest tech trade show.

As Brendan I. Koerner remarked in 2003, after Son lost $75 bn in the dot-com crash, "His latest master plan includes nothing less than the demolition of Japan's telecom industry, and, not incidentally, the revival of his moribund company, Softbank." He appears to be at it again.

Amazing luck has focused his financial success on several occasions, and nobody is prepared to bet he won't be lucky again. But established telcos have learned to watch Softbank, rather than follow it.

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