KDDI , the second-largest mobile-phone network in Japan, made a surprise move over the weekend when it announced that it is to begin operations in the US shortly.

The company, which markets its mobile services using the au brand in Japan, will not initially have to face the difficulty and expense of setting up its own network in the US. Rather, it will operate as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), using the CDMA network belonging to Sprint Nextel.

Limited line-up

KDDI Mobile , as the new company will be known, is aimed mainly at Japanese people living in the US, which will disappoint the booming numbers of Japanophile gadget fans in that country.

Fortunately, they don't need to fret about missing out on the high-end phones Japan is famous for, as KDDI Mobile will initially offer only the rather uninspiring choice of a drab Sanyo 2400 handset or an LG 225.

Putting aside the question of why anyone, Japanese or otherwise would not just go for the better selection of phones on Sprint, it's interesting to note that media coverage so far has focused on the absence of 'cool' Japanese handsets at the new company's launch.

As anyone who's scratched beneath the surface can testify, the other side isn't always greener. Phones in Japan may have more, newer technology packed into them but that doesn't mean they aren't often clunky, slow and disappointing.