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Saturday, February 26, 2005

Mobile Suica Phones Board Japan's Rail System

Tokyo Consumers will soon be able to use their mobile phones for enabling travel related dealingson Japan's extensive railway network. Early next year,the East Japan Railway Company (JR East), is scheduled to launch a service named Mobile Suica, which will enable mobile phone users to conduct all ticket-related transactions such as reservations, purchases and fare collection. Moreover, Mobile Suica-ready phones can be used to pay for purchases in stores at JR East railway stations and other stores that support the service.
Major Japanese mobile phone carriers — NTT Docomo Inc., KDDI Corp. and Vodafone Inc. plan to support the service with handsets equipped with Felica contactless IC card technology. Mobile Suica is rooted in Felicia technology Sony has been developing since the mid-1980s. JR East has been offering Suica cards as prepaid tickets and commuter passes since 2001. An electronic cash function was added in March 2003. The service does not use an actual card, but rather embeds the Felicia chip inside a handset, which functions as an extension of the Suica service.Until now, more than 12 million Suica cards have been issued.

DoCoMo's i-mode FeliCa service combines two advanced platforms: DoCoMo's i-mode mobile internet service for data communications on the go and Sony's FeliCa smart-card platform for rapid, secure data transmission. The handset is a powerful, multifunctional tool combining mobile communications with diverse functions ranging from financial transactions to opening electronic locks. More than 2 million i-mode FeliCa handsets have been sold so far, reports mobiletechnews. JR East said it is negotiating with other public transport companies, including subways, private train companies and bus companies, to join its mobile phone network.

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