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Japan to get cellphone ‘sommeliers’: official

TOKYO – Japan is to start licensing cellphone “sommeliers” to guide consumers through complicated functions as mobile telephones become ever more advanced, an official said Monday. The communications ministry said it was planning to support a private-sector plan to launch an exam to license specialists who sell cellphones.

“We hope they would be able to explain complicated functions and charge systems to consumers, much like wine sommeliers guiding you,” a ministry official said.

The ministry also hopes the cellphone experts would remind parents of the risks of letting their children use Internet-capable cellphones and recommend installing filters to block access to harmful websites, he said. The private sector will administer the exam and the government does not plan to restrict who can sell cellphones, he said. Japan has one of the world’s most advanced mobile telephone networks, with the vast majority using third-generation handsets that allow high-speed Internet access and other advanced functions.

The number of cellphone subscriptions topped 100 million in Japan at the end of December against the nation’s total population of 127 million, according to industry data.

While about one-third of Japanese primary school students aged 7-12 years use cellphones, by the time they get to high school the figure shoots up to 96 percent, the government said in a survey released last month.