Searching for information on your smartphone, using your telephone or communicating with someone far away on social media – the convenience we now enjoy in our everyday lives wouldn't be possible without communications networks. Indeed, it would be no exaggeration to say that invisible networks are an essential part of our daily lives.
In this edition of our Tokyo 2020 sponsor interview, we are speaking with four people providing support to Japan's telecommunications: Isao Yoshikawa from Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (NTT); Noriyuki Furuno from NTT DOCOMO, INC. (NTT DOCOMO); Misa Kawanami from NTT Communications; and Miwa Suzuki from Nippon Telegraph and Telephone East Corporation (NTT East).
With its group companies NTT, NTT East Japan, NTT West Japan, NTT Communications and NTT DOCOMO, the NTT Group has a wealth of experience in bringing people together and connecting Japan with the world through information and communications technology (ICT). With less than two years to go until the Tokyo 2020 Games, we asked these four about their thoughts on the Games.
How NTT services is contributing to the success of the Tokyo 2020 Games
Could you tell us about the initiatives the NTT Group is undertaking for the Tokyo 2020 Games?
Isao Yoshikawa, Senior Manager in charge of 2020 Public Relations, Strategic Business Development Division, NTT:
The NTT Group (NTT, NTT DOCOMO, NTT Communications, NTT East and NTT West) became a Tokyo 2020 partner in January 2015. In fact, I seem to remember that NTT was the very first Tokyo 2020 Gold Partner. I think the most important thing for us is how our services can be used to ensure the safety of the Tokyo 2020 Games and contribute to the success of the Games. Along with providing a safe and secure network environment, we will be exerting our utmost efforts to protect these networks during Games-time. If anything should occur, we will be on 24-hour standby to ensure we are able to respond as quickly as possible. I have heard that there were around 1,500 staff working to protect and operate the telecommunications services at the 1998 Winter Olympic Games in Nagano, and around 1,000 staff carrying out the same services at the Rio 2016 Games. At the Tokyo 2020 Games, ensuring effective cyber security measures will also be an issue. Accordingly, I would like us to put in place a system on at least the same scale – or even larger – to contribute to the success of the Games.
At the Tokyo 2020 Games a wide range of communications services are expected to be in use. These include leased data networks, the internet, mobile phones, fixed-line telephones and Wi-Fi networks. However, just as important as these are communications services that support broadcasting. The Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS) will transmit images of the Games all over the world, however, as the communications carrier we are tasked with relaying high-resolution images from competition venues across the whole of Japan to the International Broadcasting Centre (IBC) without the slightest delay. I understand that some 4.8 billion viewers around the world watched the London 2012 Games, and that the number of viewers for the Tokyo 2020 Games will be even higher. People around the world will be focusing on the Games, so we are currently making thorough preparations to ensure that no problems occur. The new National Stadium, which will serve as the Olympic Stadium, is an example of a ‘hard legacy' (tangible legacy).
The NTT Group successfully bid to develop the ICT facilities for the new National Stadium, which includes the development of networks, platforms, fixed-line and mobile phones. The new National Stadium will also host the opening and closing ceremonies of the Games, and will become Japan's national stadium after the Games are over. The Tokyo 2020 Games Vision states ... ‘ the Tokyo 2020 Games, as the most innovative in history, will bring positive reform to the world’, and I am very proud to be contributing to the realisation of this vision by providing first-class telecommunications networks and services.
Noriyuki Furuno, General Manager of Tokyo 2020 Business Office, NTT DOCOMO
Through our telecommunications services we want to provide sports fans with a new way to enjoy watching sport, with spectators in the venues able to see competitions just the way the athletes see them, and viewers at home able to feel that they are actually at the venue. We are currently making progress on the construction of telecommunications infrastructure to make this a reality.
We have already completed trials of this 'new way of enjoying sport', which gives TV or online viewers a real sense of actually being at the venue, and we have also launched a service whereby internet viewers can instantly replay the competitions. We plan to provide these services for the Games so that sports fans will be able to enjoy this new type of engagement with sport during the Tokyo 2020 Games.
I think it's very important to think about how we can use these initiatives to connect Japan after the Olympic and Paralympic Games are over. We don't want people to forget the Games almost as soon as they are over, we want them to look back over the Games and see that they served as a turning point and heralded the start of something new. We are determined to provide our support to the world in a variety of fields beyond the year 2020. We are always conscious of the fact that we don't want our work or the Games to be a fleeting event that don't appear to leave any lasting legacies – our ultimate hope is that they will connect the world.
Making the Tokyo 2020 Games the ultimate showcase for 5G technology
What plans do you have to respond to the estimated 15 million visitors who will be visiting Japan for the Tokyo 2020 Games?
NTT plans to introduce pre-travel, travel-time and post-travel telecommunications services. To give you an example of a travel-time service, last year NTT DOCOMO launched a dedicated data communications private SIM service for overseas visitors to use while they are in Japan entitled ‘Japan Welcome SIM & Wi-Fi’. Those wishing to use the ‘Japan Welcome SIM & Wi-Fi’ service simply apply on the dedicated website before they start their journey, pick up the SIM card at the airport when they arrive in Japan, and are then able to use NTT DOCOMO's data communications for a period of 20 days. As users can switch between using data communications and Wi-Fi functions on NTT DOCOMO networks by authenticating the SIM card, no complex activation process is required, and users will be able to access the public wireless LAN ‘docomo Wi-Fi’ with ease.
In addition, we are offering a Plan 0 that enables users to use a set amount of data communications free of charge by completing ‘missions’ such as viewing advertisements, and we are also planning to provide a communications environment that allows visitors to Japan for the Tokyo 2020 Games to check any necessary Games-related information without any stress at all.
The ‘Japan Welcome SIM & Wi-Fi’ service is just one example of the communications services we are providing to make visitors feel at home and show the hospitality for which Japan is renowned.
What exactly is the new 5G technology and what content does it offer?
5G is the fifth generation of technology in the evolution of our LTE Advanced communications systems. NTT DOCOMO is currently researching and developing this service with a view to launching it in the year 2020. After launching the 5G service, the Tokyo 2020 Games will be the first major event, and we would like the Tokyo 2020 Games to become the ultimate showcase for our 5G technology.
The previous Tokyo Games in 1964 were largely about the postwar reconstruction of Japan, and the shinkansen bullet train and Tokyo Metropolitan Expressway were major legacies of these Games. We would like one of the legacies of the Tokyo 2020 Games to be 5G! The efforts to make 5G a reality are not being carried out by NTT DOCOMO alone. Many partners are collaborating with the NTT Group, and we are all working together to develop this technology. Japan has some truly outstanding technologies, and I firmly believe that the NTT Group is a major supporter of these. I hope you will all look forward to the year 2020.
Two objectives as a Tokyo 2020 partner
Para swimmer Takuro Yamada is employed by NTT DOCOMO. Does NTT have any particular initiatives in place for the Paralympic Games?
From September 22 to 24 the Japan Para Swimming Championships were held in Japan, and we leveraged our position as an ICT company to invite messages of support for Takuro Yamada on our internal site. As a result, we received over 2,000 messages of support.
We are currently thinking about how we can make our employees proud to be members of the NTT Group when the Tokyo 2020 Games are over. If they know that their work colleagues are trying hard to contribute to the success of the Games, we think this will serve as further motivation for all our staff. From that perspective, Takuro Yamada and all the other athletes employed by the NTT Group have a vital role to play.
When we became a Tokyo 2020 partner, we had two main objectives. The first of these was achieving business growth. Having society use our technologies serves as a useful PR tool, and will lead to further business growth after the Tokyo 2020 Games are over. The second objective was raising staff awareness. With Japan's declining birthrate and aging population and the increase in visitors to Japan from countries around the world, a universal design mindset and a fully-inclusive society will become increasingly important for Japan in the future.
Accordingly, we have set up a volunteer system across the NTT Group aimed at encouraging our staff to develop a wider view of society. As of the end of August, some 9,000 staff had registered, and many of our staff are experiencing or supporting sport for people with impairments or providing support for event operations. These staff members are 100 percent volunteers with no input at all from the company – many of them even take their annual paid holidays to participate in events and pay their own travel expenses. We have staff volunteering for events in several parts of Japan – from Tokyo right up to the disaster-affected Tohoku region.
Some staff members even take their children with them to support sports for people with impairments. Sometimes the children act as reporters and conduct interviews with the NTT athletes, and these reports are then published on our company website. So we provide an opportunity for our staff to have fun with their families while at the same time think about the need for a fully-inclusive society. Raising awareness among staff and encouraging them to broaden their outlook is one of the legacies that we hope to leave to the NTT Group.
As part of our efforts to raise awareness and momentum for the Paralympics, NTT and other members of the All Japan Business Committee hold inter-company boccia competitions across Japan. We had 89 teams from different companies and organisations take part in the boccia competition held at Tokyo Skytree in September this year. Fumiko Ebisawa, a member of the team that won the boccia championship last year, is an employee of the NTT Group. She has recently been coaching Team NTT, and has guided the team to a top eight ranking. I think it's great that our employees bring all the members of the NTT Group together through sport.
Could you tell us about any initiatives you have for the Tokyo 2020 Medal Project?
This is a project that allows the public to engage with the Games by donating their discarded mobile phones and other small electronic appliances. Metals are extracted from the donated appliances and used in the production of the approx. 5,000 gold, silver and bronze medals that will be awarded at the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020. Recycled metals have been used in the production of a certain amount of the medals for previous Games. However, this is the first time in the history of the Olympic and Paralympic Games that a project has been conducted to enable the public to participate by donating their discarded electronic appliances, from which the required metals will be extracted and used in the production of Games' medals. The Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, NTT DOCOMO, the Japan Environmental Sanitation Centre, the Ministry of the Environment, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the public and private sectors are driving this project which aims to contribute to the realisation of a sustainable society and to leave a lasting legacy.
Most people will watch the Olympic and Paralympic Games on their televisions, but when they see the athletes receiving their medals during the medal ceremonies, they may be tempted to think that maybe one of those medals was produced with metal extracted from their old mobile phone. This may give them a heightened sense of being directly involved with the Games as well as further arouse their interest in recycling. As of the end of July 2018, NTT DOCOMO had collected around 4.3 million discarded mobile phones. Taking into account the production process and other factors, the company plans to continue collecting discarded appliances until the spring of next year.
When it comes to leaving lasting legacies, the 5G technology that we mentioned earlier is one of these, but the Tokyo 2020 Medal Project will also leave a number of soft legacies (intangible legacies) such as realising a recycling-oriented society, and prompting people to think more deeply about the global environment.
Many countries around the world are also very interested in this project. I understand that the Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo was full of praise about the project during her recent meeting with Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike.
Initiatives that showcase the power of telecommunications
Could you please tell us about your hopes and aspirations for the Tokyo 2020 Games?
Miwa Suzuki, Project Coordination Manager, Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Promotion Office, NTT East:
I am currently in charge of managing coordination of the telecommunications environment at various Games competition venues, and as Mr. Furuno said, I am also acutely aware that our telecommunications services will leave a lasting legacy to future generations. I am immensely proud to be involved in the Tokyo 2020 Games which will have such a major impact, and this serves as a major source of motivation. Most people still have an image of the NTT Group as being primarily involved in telephones and the internet, but I would like the entire group to work together to widely communicate the fact that telecommunications are amazingly powerful.
I have already mentioned the hopes and aspirations of the company, but personally speaking, I am genuinely happy to be involved in this work. Not only do I derive a real sense of satisfaction at being involved in an event that will be the focus of people around the world, but I have also had the opportunity to learn so many new things. In particular, I learn new things everyday about universal design and what a fully-inclusive society actually entails. Also, I have the opportunity to relate the things I learn and feel through doing this kind of work to my colleagues at work and also to my children. I would like my children to notice and feel the things that I notice. I think it's really worthwhile telling them about these things, and I am very grateful for this opportunity.
Misa Kawanami, Project Manager, Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Promotion Office, NTT Communications:
I have been involved in the project from the outset, so I have particularly strong feelings. The Olympic and Paralympic Games are a huge event, and everything has been a new challenge. I communicate with people with whom under ordinary circumstances I would never be involved, and it is a fantastic experience to be working towards achieving this single goal. At the moment, I'm involved in a middle management capacity, but several younger staff members are also experiencing the Olympics and Paralympics, and in the future they will be able to communicate the experiences they gained in a variety of ways. Those experiences will constitute personal legacies, and I am really happy to be a part of that.
One thing I am aiming for is for NTT Group staff to be happy and proud to be members of the NTT Group after the Games are over. Speaking personally, I became aware of sports for people with impairments during my second year at the company back in the early 1990s. Since that time, I've been involved with an NPO that supports sports for people with impairments. As I have that experience, it feels like fate has decreed that I be involved in the Tokyo 2020 Games. My aspiration for the Games is to raise the profile of the Paralympics. I'm always saying to those around me ‘Come on, let's really get behind the Paralympics and sports for persons with impairments’. My dream would be for all the venues to be packed to capacity during the Paralympic Games.
Even though they are invisible to the naked eye, telecommunications services are indispensable. The NTT Group will continue to work hard to ensure a safe and secure Games, to provide the utmost hospitality to overseas visitors to the Games, and to offer new ways to enjoy watching sport. In the year 2020, a whole new world may open up in front of us. I'm certainly looking forward to that!