A foothold in Japan

The victory in the US gave ERA a foothold in Japan as well.

Ericsson had previously defined this market as strategically important and opened a small office in Tokyo to handle purchases of electronic components. Morgan Bengtsson became an important envoy for Ericsson when, after a period as technical attaché at the Swedish embassy in Tokyo, he started working for the company in the same city. Another was Jöran Hoff, who was sent to Japan, after having been responsible for ERA’s AMPS system in the US, to learn about the Japanese telecommunications scene.

At that time the US government, which took a dim view of the American trade deficit with Japan, was exerting pressure on the state-owned Japanese telecommunications agency, NTT, to adopt the same mobile standard as the US.

At a dinner with NTT executives in Stockholm, Hoff and his colleagues talked about why TDMA was a better technology for mobile telephony than FDMA, and said they were certain they were going to win the ongoing technological contest in the US. The Japanese laughed politely and answered that if ERA’s digital mobile technology became the US standard, they would also give the Swedes a contract.


The Japanese were true to their word and Ericsson was invited to take part with AT&T and Motorola in the process that now began in Japan to specify a digital mobile standard. “Initially we started the work without investing a cent, thanks to advance payments from our customer,” says Hoff.

The objective was to come up with a Japanese digital mobile standard, JDC (Japanese Digital Cellular). Preparations had been made in Japan for FDMA technology but now it switched to TDMA. “That suited ERA down to the ground as after all we had no problems with TDMA.” But then they got to another major piece of the jigsaw: what about the core network for mobile telephony in Japan?

“There was a lot of pressure from the US to get the Japanese to opt for the American standard,” Hoff says. “In order to prevent Motorola from exploiting its position of strength in Japan, our aim was to influence standardization so that the infrastructure for mobile telephony would resemble GSM. This would give us a foothold there as well.”

Author: Svenolof Karlsson & Anders Lugn

© Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson and Centre for Business History

Contact info/About the site