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From: John Higdon <>
Subject: Re: Why Are Pulse Dial Phones Still Around?
Date: 15 Jan 91 11:53:45 GMT
Reply-To: John Higdon <>
Organization: No Hills, No Cows, Tokyo JAPAN

In article <> (J. Eric Townsend) writes:

>And the rest of us have little choice.  UH has no real organizational
>level telecommunications policies.  Most departments still have the
>rotary *only*, department level switching units.

As does most of Japan. The first thing that caught my attention when
poking around with the phones here is that DTMF is the exception
rather than the rule. This comes as quite a shock after reading
glowing report after report of how the Japanese phone system is so
superior. The bulk of the NTT switching network is crossbar that has
had no DTMF capability added. Most PBXes, including the one at the
hotel where I am staying, wouldn't recognize a DTMF tone if it bit it
on the foot.

The usual instrument for customers is a push button "cute" phone of
domestic manufacture that pulses at 20 pps. The casual observer would
be led to believe that touch tone is common in Japan, when in reality
it is not. And those phones! The instuments are atrocious. They sound
bad, have a half-life of about six months and are worse than your
typical Time-Life special. In fact, the only DTMF other than on coin
phones (which are in many ways superior to those in the US) I have
seen so far is in the office where I am working. It is an American
operation and those in charge found the local instrument offerings so
bad that they (at great expense) brought "real" telephones over from
the US. Amusingly, among the equipment was a Panasonic KX-T616. The
phones the Japanese design and build for export are vastly superior to
what they foist upon the home folk.

While DTMF may be nearly universal in the US, it will be along time
before the rest of the world can say the same.

From: John Higdon <>
Subject: NTT Crossbar
Date: 18 Jan 91 04:57:27 GMT
Reply-To: John Higdon <>
Organization: No Hills, No Cows, Tokyo JAPAN

In a previous article I had incorrectly indicated that crossbar
switches used by NTT were incapable of DTMF operation. The confusion
arose from the fact that in the same manner as their electronic
switches, DTMF service is a class of service option.

Unlike DTMF service in the US, however, Japanese tone service is
exclusionary. If you have DTMF enabled, rotary dialing no longer
works.  In the US, rotary is universal and DTMF is sometimes optional.
In Japan, it is "either -- or".

Organization: Green Hills and Cows
Reply-To: John Higdon <>
Subject: Japanese Payphones
Date: 20 Jan 91 20:52:30 PST (Sun)
From: John Higdon <>

Here is a look at coin phones in the REALLY big city -- Tokyo. No one
has as I recall mentioned these on the Digest lately.

The standard issue phone is green. Not pale green, but a bright
flourescent knock-out shade that seems to be popular in Japan. Pink
phones are "dumb" COCOTs that are found in small stores and eating
establishment. Yellow and blue phones are older, less capable units
that are increasingly difficult to find.

All green phones have one thing in common: a card reader that accepts
a stored value card that can be obtained in various denominations, up
to 500 "call units". A call unit is the equivalent of 10 yen, the
minimum required to "start" a call. A "local" call will exhaust a unit
within a few minutes, whereas an international call will require a
number of units per minute.  Calls throughout Japan fall anywhere in
between. The cards are readily available, including at some vending
machines attached to green phones themselves.

In attition to cards, most (but not all) green phones will accept 10
and 100 yen coins. While it is much more convenient to place an
expensive call with a phone card, it is still possible to use coins.
Green phones with a gold faceplate will allow you to dial anywhere in
the world, depositing coins as you go or with the ultra convenience of
the stored value card.

Physically, the instruments come in many shapes and sizes, with the
largest comparable to a Las Vegas slot machine (other comparisons not
intended), down to the smallest which is not much larger than a
standard telephone.  The smaller ones are usually incapable of
accepting coins. The handsets sport a noise-cancelling transmitter,
and as a result are wonderful to use in noisy locations such as street
corners. All green phones appear to use DTMF back to the CO.

One other small difference between the NTT coin phones and US utility
phones is that coin return is a local operation. If the coin was not
collected by the CO, it is returned instantly when the receiver is
replaced on an incomplete call. This is almost disconcerting when one
is used to the small delay on domestic phones which must wait for the
DC signal from the CO to return the coins.

With the exceptional convenience of Japanese coin phones, there is a
downside. As others have reported, calls do not go through in Japan
with the reliability of the US telephone network. The percentage of
failure (silence, reorder, wrong number) is significant enough to be
irritating to the US user. And this is true even on NTT's newest
digital exchanges. No one could offer any explanation of this and some
residents were even surprised that anyone would notice.

Ironically, one of the major deficiencies of NTT (lack of itemized
billing -- available now at extra cost) contributes to the convenience
of the coin telephones. From gold-faceplate phones, it matters not
where you call.  The only thing that differentiates one call from
another is how fast the meter pulses tick away (one per "unit" of 10
yen). Hence, it is irrelavent how the call is paid for. A display on
the front of the phone shows how many units remain. If it gets low,
you deposit more yen. If it runs out, you get cut off. There is no
operator who comes on the line to ask for more money.

A small criticism of the card system would be concerning the lack of a
recall button. When making a series of calls, one must hang up after
each one and remove the card (serenaded by the most strident
"b'beep-b'beep" that goes on for several seconds), then re-insert it.
Socially, this may be more of a feature than a bug, since there is
usually some sort of line of folks waiting to use the phone and this
cacophony of beeping would alert those patiently waiting to someone
making an unacceptable number of calls or call attempts. My preferance
would be for a recall button.

I really liked the stored value card system. It is puzzling as to why
it was never introduced here. But then, more than card readers would
have to be installed; the rate structure would have to change
drastically. In Japan, calls cost virtually the same whether placed
from NTT coin phones or from standard business or residential phones.
This is certainly not true in the US.

        John Higdon         |   P. O. Box 7648   |   +1 408 723 1395     | San Jose, CA 95150 |       M o o !

Date: Sun, 29 Mar 92 13:04 PST
From: (John Higdon)
Organization: Green Hills and Cows
Subject: Re: Natural Monopoly" Dies

tim gorman <71336.1270@CompuServe.COM> writes:

> Is this why the US was considered to have the best telecommunications
> system in the world prior to divestiture? And why has the US slipped
> behind other markets since divestiture (Germany, Japan, etc.)?

This urban legend comes up time and time again. I cannot speak for
Germany (although friends in The Netherlands indicate similar
findings) but I can certainly speak about Japan and its highly-touted
telephone system. There seem to be many in this country that hold the
mistaken belief that the Japanese telephone system is somehow light
years more advanced than the US system, that there is ISDN in every
home, etc. ad nauseum.

Not true. In fact, most Japanese telephone customers use cheap push
button, pulse dial (because of the general LACK of DTMF capability
outside of metro areas) phones. NTT thinks nothing of running tens of
thousands of cable feet without active enhancement so that trans-
mission is highly variable.

My own experiences using the telephone in Tokyo reveal that call
completion success percentages are a joke compared with the US. Calls
frequently end in reorder-equivalent or just simply die in silence.
Perhaps someone could detail for us just exactly where all these
residential ISDN subscribers live because I sure missed them.

No, the US telephone system has not gone down the drain. I find local
and long distance service to have a speed, quality, and reliability
that has never been equaled at any time in the past. And on that
much-rarer occasion that something does fail, repair efforts are more
swift and more conclusive than ever before.

 From my perspective (active telephone user), post-divestiture US
telephony is a dream-come-true when compared to the past. Technical
issues can be discussed with telco staff and creative solutions can be
reached. In the past, one dared not reveal that he had any working
knowledge of telephony for fear of reprisal from "telco security". It
was all supposed to be a big mystery.

Perhaps someone who feels differently could explain EXACTLY how the US
telephone network has gone to Hell, MI in a handbasket. Please do not
mention two issues: COCOTs (which are a separate matter from
divestiture and do not have to be the way they are); and the
complexity of making service purchasing decisions. With choice comes
responsibility. Look how tough it is to buy a car. Maybe if only Yugos
were available things could be easier.

No, what I want to hear about is how the service has deteriorated. And
how it is inferior to the rest of the world. Perhaps we could have
some details about real, generally available offerings enjoyed by
telco customers in Europe and Japan (I am familiar with Japan, so be
careful about what you make up).

        John Higdon         |   P. O. Box 7648   |   +1 408 723 1395      | San Jose, CA 95150 |       M o o !

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