NTT DOCOMO, the company that introduced Japan to the mobile Internet and was the globe’s original provider of 3G (third-generation) cell phone service, has just started a LTE (Long Term Evolution) mobile service. The new network will allow DOCOMO to offer many new services to users, and create significant additional income for the company.
In 2004, DOCOMO introduced the idea of a “Super 3G” network to the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), the group overseeing 3G implementation. The idea has slowly changed into LTE. DOCOMO started working on an experimental LTE network for system testing in 2007, finalizing the details in 2008. Download speeds of two hundred and fifty megabytes per second were recorded outside in March 2008.
DOCOMO has also introduced equipment to smoothly change over to the new service. New remote radio equipment (RRE), which enables the LTE network was installed in old base stations. A final test of the network was performed in Tokyo in June 2010. In July, the company announced that the service’s would be called “Xi” (pronounced “crossy”). The “X” means “connection” while the “i” stands for “innovation.”
At first, the network will only operate in Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka. It will cover nearly three quarters of the nation’s cell phone users by March 2015. Customers who leave the LTE area will smoothly transition into DOCOMO’s old 3G network, which still operates all over Japan.
DOCOMO will introduce data service for PC users, followed by LTE-compatible cell phones, including voice service within the old network, by March 2012. Outside, download rates over thirty-seven Mbps and over twelve Mbps for uploads. In high-traffic areas, airport terminals, users may see download speeds of about seventy Mbps which is about ten times faster than the old 3G network.
LTE can also download around three times more data and upload about three times more, with only one-quarter as much transmission latency. DOCOMO’s LTE network uses separate frequencies for downloads and uploads.
This low latency and other advanced technology will allow LTE to operate cloud-based mobile services, which will be an important growth area for the company. All of these features mean the LTE user will soon be able to use videophones with instant interpretation. When international roaming becomes an option, an customers will be able to both view and instantly understand their overseas partners.
Another feature called augmented-reality will soon change how users shop. For instance, someone buying a couch, could just aim their LTE device at a place in their living room and then see pictures of an assortment of couches superimposed on the live image on their screen.
By the end of March 2011, DOCOMO plans to spend more than $400 million on around one thousand base stations which will serve just over seven percent of the company’s users. By March 2013, the company will have spent more than $3.6 billion on fifteen thousand base stations which will cover forty percent of Japan’s people. One fourth of the DOCOMO’s users, will change over to LTE by March 2015.
These statistics mean that DOCOMO’s large increase in data capacity will push income from data services to a higher level than voice revenue. This change will be significant to the company as it grows both data and non-data services, hoping to make more than of. $10 billion by March 2013.