NTT DoCoMo, Japan's biggest mobile carrier, is to spearhead the rollout of an advanced version of its 3G (third-generation) services called Super 3G, a company spokesman said Wednesday.
Mobile carriers are expected to roll out Super 3G in the coming years as a defensive measure against the increasing speeds of other wireless technologies such as WLAN (wireless LAN) and the long-range WiMax standard, according to analysts.
The move will be a low-cost upgrade to the company's current 3G WCDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access) network. The upgrade, which will offer 100Mbps (megabits per second) downlink and 50Mbps uplink speeds, will be rolled out in metropolitan areas initially and be operational by 2008, said spokesman Takumi Suzuki.
DoCoMo will not need to replace much equipment to improve the network, which can be completed more easily than the company's 3G network, he said.
"We needed three years to get our 3G network running, but this network will take a much shorter time. We are targeting the 2007 to 2010 period," he said.
Getting such a network running so quickly will probably prove difficult, said Kirk Boodry, telecom analyst with Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein (Japan) in Tokyo.
DoCoMo will have spent about ¥1.8 trillion ($17.3 billion) between 2000 and 2005 on building its 3G network, Broody said. "With the upgrade, it's mainly software and it's not going to cost anywhere near a trillion yen, but the deployment time frame looks a bit optimistic," he said.
The confirmation of DoCoMo's upgrade plans comes after the 3G Partnership Project (3GPP), a consortium of wireless vendors and operators, decided on Dec. 7 to begin studying an advanced version of 3G following a request from 26 network and mobile phone companies led by DoCoMo, Suzuki said.
Other companies include Alcatel, Cingular Wireless, Lucent Technologies, Motorola, NEC, Nokia, and Vodafone Group. The new technology has been provisionally called Super 3G by 3GPP, Boodry said.
The 3GPP works to make a globally applicable 3G mobile phone system specification within the scope of the International Telecommunication Union's International Mobile Telecommunications-2000 (IMT-2000) project.
The 3GPP should finalize the new standard's specifications by the end of December 2006, Suzuki said.
Super 3G will help wireless operators offer speeds that rival those of fixed-line communications, helping operators promote new services, said Boodry. DoCoMo's 3G network offers download speeds of 384Kbps and upload speeds of 129Kbps, which means it can take minutes to download a single song, he said.
"3G speeds don't allow for fast music downloads, and Super 3G will promote more video calls. If you put the bandwidth in, somebody will always find a way to fill it," he said.
Mobile carriers and handset vendors are keen to promote Super 3G because they see the increasing provision of high-speed WLAN as a threat to their business models, said Nahoko Mitsuyama, a principal analyst at Gartner Japan.