Retired president and chief executive officer, NTT DoCoMo
Born: 1939, in Gifu prefecture, Japan.
Education: Tokyo University, bachelor's degree, 1962; Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MBA, 1978; Tokyo University, PhD, 1981.
Family: Married; children: two.
Career: Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT), 1962–1986, various positions; 1986–1987, director of New York office, assisted in founding NTT America; 1989–1990, senior manager, business strategy planning headquarters; 1990–1991, senior executive, NTT mobile communications; 1991–1992, executive manager, technology research department; 1992–1995, senior vice president and general manager, Kant regional communications center; 1995–1996, executive vice president, service engineering headquarters; 1996–1997, senior executive vice president, business communication headquarters; 1997–1998, senior executive vice president, NTT Mobile Communications Network; 1998–2004, president and chief executive officer, NTT Mobile Communications Network (became NTT DoCoMo in 2000); 2004–, advisor.
Publications: Kodo joho shakai no kiban tekunoroji: 3 C (Computer, Communication, and Control), 1991; Komyunikeshon no kozo: nengen, shakai, gijutsu kaisono yoru bunseki, 1993; Ido tsushin Handobukku, 2000; W-CDMA: Mobile Communications System, 2002.
■ Keiji Tachikawa rode the telecommunications bubble of the late 1990s to introduce and push new wireless-(cellular-) phone technologies. In an attempt to standardize the wireless-phone industry, he proselytized W-CDMA technology as a wireless standard around the globe. In Japan he was responsible for the immensely popular wireless-phone Internet service called i-Mode. Though responsible for pushing DoCoMo to the forefront of wireless technologies, he also expanded the
company's international ventures, which mostly met with unfavorable results when the telecom-business bubble burst.
Tachikawa was born in 1939 in the Gifu prefecture of Japan. He received both his bachelor's degree and doctorate in engineering from Tokyo University. He also received a scholarship to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he received an MBA. Immediately after receiving his undergraduate degree, he began to work for the then-stateowned Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT) Corporation. The Japanese telecommunications industry was deregulated in 1984, opening the way for competition to NTT.
By 1986 Tachikawa was in the United States as director of the New York office of NTT. He assisted in the establishment of NTT America in 1987. He then held various management positions, including vice president, before being named senior vice president of NTT Mobile Communications Network in 1997. In 1998 he became president and CEO of NTT Mobile, which was renamed NTT DoCoMo in April 2000. "DoCoMo" has a dual meaning; it is an acronym for Do Communications over the Mobile Network, and it is a Japanese word, docomo , which means "everywhere." In 1998 NTT Mobile Communications Network was the largest cell-phone company in the world.
In February 1999, in an effort to expand business by moving the company's cellular services beyond just voice capabilities, Tachikawa launched his very successful i-Mode service. Along with services such as restaurant guides, news, and cartoons, i-Mode offered pared-down Web pages and e-mail services through a wireless phone. In just over one year after launching in Japan, i-Mode had five million subscribers; within two years it had over 17 million subscribers. The service was so successful that NTT's i-Mode servers crashed several times due to heavy volume. The cost of the service was a modest $3 a month. Each e-mail of five hundred words or less was only 4¢. Approximately 30,000 companies provided content. In late 1998 NTT Mobile went public, and the company's stock rose alongside the rise of the i-Mode service. By early 2000 the stock value had increased 290 percent.
Not content with the success of i-Mode, Tachikawa began to push a new wireless Internet service offered by the company called FOMA, based on W-CDMA, or wireless broadband. W-CDMA technology had enough bandwidth to support video and music streaming over wireless phones. These capabilities were often referred to as 3G, for the third generation of wireless service. The service was launched in 2001 with Tachikawa's hopes that it would produce DoCoMo's next financial boon. Some in the company felt he launched the service too soon; that there were major quality issues yet to be solved. Michiyo Nakamota quoted Tachikawa as saying, "in this world, there is nothing that is 100 percent perfect. So we are going to do it" ( Financial Times , October 1, 2001). Tachikawa noted that cell phones took some years to become successful and argued the same would happen with FOMA.
In the wake of the success of i-Mode, Tachikawa sought to extend the service internationally. He bought stakes in international wireless companies such as AT&T Wireless in the United States, KPN Mobile of the Netherlands, and Hutchison 3G in the United Kingdom. He also forged deals with America Online and investigated ventures with Coca-Cola and Hewlett Packard. With his stature as well as his stakes in other European companies, he persuaded them to buy initial, expensive licenses for utilizing 3G. Most, however, did not invest in the infrastructure necessary for the service to succeed, preferring to wait and see how it did in Japan with DoCoMo. With the exception of AT&T Wireless, the U.S. wireless industry utilized a different technology.
Unfortunately, 3G was not the great success that Tachikawa had hoped it would be. Experts stated that the product was ahead of what the marketplace needed, and it was slow to be accepted. The foreign investments Tachikawa had undertaken began to lose large sums of money. DoCoMo had to take a $2.5 million write-down on its stake in KPN, and a deal with the Korean wireless operator SK fell through. By 2002, "investors [had] already given up the idea that these oversees investments will make sense from a financial return point of view," according to Yasumasa Goda ( Mobile Communication International , February 2002). At the same time, the telecommunications business plummeted. By 2004 the $17 billion that DoCoMo had invested to spread its service around the world had nearly vanished.
FOMA did begin to grow, but slowly. By November 2003 it had 1.6 million subscribers and the company still had an ambitious goal of reaching 25 million by 2006. Another agreement with AT&T Wireless guaranteed that at least four U.S. cities would have W-CDMA networks installed. But Tachikawa's vision for the global adoption of W-CDMA was far from met. In addition, competitor KDDI began taking market share away from DoCoMo in Japan.
Tachikawa stepped down as CEO and president in May 2004. "Tachikawa has forged a reputation as a nimble, open-minded manager who isn't afraid to hire experienced outsiders," wrote a contributor to BusinessWeek (January 10, 2000). His years in the United States also changed his management style from the typical Japanese style of teamwork and general consensus to a more entrepreneurial, ambitious, and selfreliant approach. He enjoyed golfing and reading.
See also entry on Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. in International Directory of Company Histories .
"Casting Japan's Net," BusinessWeek , January 10, 2000, p. 77.
"Chatroom: Dr. Keiji Tachikawa," Mobile Communications International , December-January 2001, p. 42.
Herskovitz, Jon, "'Visionist' Puts Internet Phone in 25,000 New Hands Per Day," Advertising Age International , July 2000, p. 22.
"Keiji Tachikawa," BusinessWeek , January 8, 2001, p. 65.
Nakamoto, Michiyo, "The Last Man Standing Plays a Waiting Game," Financial Times , January 14, 2003.
——, "A Pioneering but Risky Mobile Call: Interview Keiji Tachikaaw, NTT DoCoMo," Financial Times , October 1, 2001.
"Phone Pioneer Hangs on for Mobile Success," America's Intelligence Wire , March 4, 2004.
"Stranger in Strange Lands," Mobile Communications International , February 2002, p. 12.
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