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Japan's Warp-Speed Ride to Internet Future [washingtonpost.com]
TOKYO -- Americans invented the Internet, but the Japanese are running away with it.
Broadband service here is eight to 30 times as fast as in the United States -- and considerably cheaper. Japan has the world's fastest Internet connections, delivering more data at a lower cost than anywhere else, recent studies show.
Accelerating broadband speed in this country -- as well as in South Korea and much of Europe -- is pushing open doors to Internet innovation that are likely to remain closed for years to come in much of the United States.
I've been guilty of bragging about the connection speeds we enjoy in Japan. I've always been one of the first people in my neighborhood to take advantage of the latest cable, DSL or FTTH connection offerings. I currently run my Internet, IP phone and TV off of one optic fiber line. I can get full HDTV on multiple TVs and never miss a beat on any of the PCs.
Just thought I'd rub it in again. ;)
Another aspect is the urban topography of Japan. A majority of the population lives in densely packed areas. The switches are physically a lot closer. This also makes it easier to wire up populous areas.
Now that the infrastructure is largely in place it's the competition that is keeping the prices down. Yahoo Japan's YahooBB (Yahoo Broad Band) service played a big part in this by undercutting all the big players.
It's a combination of factors, but it's certainly effective. As the article says I was paying astronomical prices for pseudo-broadband (actually ISDN lines) 10 years ago.
While it is true that Japan is considerably ahead in terms of technology both for home and mobile connections, I am not buying the immediate conclusion that internet penetration and usage is also far ahead. Quite the contrary, I would say.
When looking at the Japanese Internet and trying to gauge how Internet savvy the population is, I cannot help but get the feeling that they are actually lagging by a huge gap of about five to ten years. Some of it can surely be attributed to the language barrier for English which many Japanese still find hard to penetrate and of course cultural bias on both sides (I don't want cute, flashing-till-I-puke web pages).
What do others think? Is "the Internet" more advanced in Japan than elsewhere?
But as far as figuring out to use the technology in some meaningful, productive way, there is an argument that Japan is generally behind. (not to say that Twitter is making American businesses more productive ;) )
If we could just figure out a way to use a hanko with Google Docs...
i think part of the reason japan has built out the infrastructure (e.g. fibre optic to home) is that you have a critical mass compacted into a small area; basically less cable metres per user. the second reason (and this may not differ so much around the world) is that the telcos here are absolute masters at confusing the hell out of the customer; you are offered so many choices of plans and options that you really have no idea what you are getting in the end. and as a corollary to that, no-one can ever be bothered changing provider because the whole thought is terrifying!
as to using the net well? probably not as well as they could. but then again, b2b in japan is built on personal relationships and introductions; for every 1 customer i pick up in japan online i probably have 40 or 50 from the states, even with a similar level of marketing effort. but b2c is a different story; look at rakuten etc.
but i would definitely agree with jeff; it is almost like japan is leaping a whole generation, going straight from email to mobile internet, leaving the PC web browser in the dust. i just can never be bothered reading anything on one of those tiny screens in English, but in Japanese you can pack a lot of information into a tiny space!
But seriously, what's the hangup here in the States? Are we just too spread out for this ultra high-performance stuff to be feasible, e.g., cost effective? With single-family homes commonly 30 - 60 feet apart in many residential neighborhoods, it's got to cost more to service customers around here.