It could be said that the history of the internet in Japan started with JUNET (the Japan University NETwork). The operation of JUNET began in October 1984, connecting Keio University, Tokyo Institute of Technology and The University of Tokyo, and was concluded in October 1991, when it transferred to fully professional IP networks. When JUNET was concluded, the IP address and domain name management task were transferred to JNIC (now JPNIC).
When JUNET started, we had collaborated closely with pioneers in the United States, namely the R&D of the BSD UNIX system, who designed the DNS system or global IP address and domain name management.
In 1992, we tried to enter into professional and commercial internet operation. Globally, the year of 1992 is widely known as the year when the IETF community had to reform the IAB, due to the wrong governance of IPv6 (known as IP next generation at that time) standardization activity. But in Japan, 1992 is remembered as the year when the first commercial ISP (Internet Service Provider), IIJ (Internet Initiative Japan, www.iij.ad.jp), was established. Great efforts were necessary to obtain operational permission from the Japanese government in order to achieve this.
In 1994, the WIDE project established the R&D consortium known as NSPIXP, to establish the platform and technology to exchange IP traffic among various IP networks efficiently and economically. 1992 is also known as the year when the volume of data traffic reached the same volume of voice traffic as that generated by the PSTN service, i.e., digital data communication had reached the position of a major player within the telecommunications system.
In 1996, the NTT, the national flag telephone operator in Japan, launched their internet service, called OCN (Open Computer Network). At the time, corporate networks used very expensive leased digital lines, and most domestic customers were using a dial-up connection via the analogue PSTN service. Gradually, the ISDN service, INS64 for NTT, gained a market share of internet access technology. It was widely recognized that it was very costly to connect to and use the internet in Japan, due to the expensive PSTN and ISDN tariff. Actually, at the WIDE project's 10th anniversary symposium a panel session was held, discussing why the Japanese internet was very expensive and why Japan was in fact an under developed country as regards internet infrastructure. Though NTT's PSTN service and ISDN service were expensive, NTT aggressively promoted the deployment of FTTH (Fiber To The Home) environment. The progress achieved by NTT later resulted in the fast development and deployment of a broadband internet environment in Japan.
Before implementing a FTTH solution for the domestic customer, we first had to replace the PSTN and ISDN access with ADSL access. ADSL technology has been in commercial operation since 1999, following technical evaluation and establishment at various events and organizations, such as Networld+Interop Tokyo. Voice over IP (VoIP) technology has been gradually introduced into the structure of the data transmission system. Full deployment of the ADSL system and service was triggered by the following two important actions.
Firstly the government, under the Mori-cabinet, launched the e-Japan initiative. Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori announced the e-Japan initiative during his first keynote address at the opening of a Diet session, and in response to this address, the IT strategic headquarters was established in 2001. The second trigger was the start of Yahoo BB!'s nationwide ADSL service. Yahoo BB! fully exploited the opportunity to use the drycupper to build up their ADSL service.
With these triggers, Japan has progressed towards becoming a cost effective broadband internet country. Indeed, in 2006 it was said of Japan that it is one of the most cost effective broadband countries and has one of the cheapest bit costs in the world.
Japan is also well-known as a country with one of the largest penetration ratios for intelligent cellular phone systems. NTT DoCoMo has become very famous due to their amazing success in the cellular phone business, especially for the success of their “i-mode” service. This is one of the first data communication services on a cellular phone system. It was reported that in 2007, the total volume of data traffic in the cellular phone system in Japan became larger than that of voice traffic.
Now, towards the year 2011, the telecommunications infrastructure is going to converge with broadcasting infrastructure. 2011 is being hailed as the first year of a fully digital age. The RF transmission of analogue TV programmes will be terminated in 2011, to migrate to a fully digitized broadcasting service. The legacy telephone service will migrate to the VoIP service. This is seen as the first milestone of the NGN (Next Generation Network). Also, surprisingly, the IPv4 address pool may run out for new address allocations around 2011. Japanese society has criticized peer-to-peer file sharing systems, such as Winny, due to a series of information leakage incidents. However, researchers have recognized that the development and deployment of peer-to-peer technology is a kind of logical consequence of the wide deployment of a broadband internet environment.
Towards 2011, we may have to face the following technical challenges:
1. Development and deployment of end-to-end architecture on the existing complex IPv4 based internet.
2. Development of a Japanese infrastructure which is globally competitive and globally interoperable.
3. Developing new applications and new business models in the ubiquitous networking environment.
4. Development of an internet system as a social infrastructure.
5. Integration with real-space (i.e. the integration of physical space and cyber space).
6. NGN (Next Generation Network) and FMC (Fixed Mobile Convergence).
7. Development and deployment of the unwired internet environment.
In order to progress the actions listed above, we must establish strong collaboration between industry and academia. As we can see, Japan has had a series of unique projects, e.g., NSPIXP, that differ from other countries. Since Japan is now a country at the leading edge of broadband and a ubiquitous networking environment, we have to demonstrate the success of internet deployment, as a showcase for future internet technologies. We must be a pioneer for the rest of world. We believe that it is our responsibility and our contribution to global technological development.