Tokyo KDDI Corp., the second-largest cellular phone carrier in Japan, will upgrade the transmission rate of its third-generation service from today's 144 kbits/second to 2.4 Mbits/s, starting in three major metropolitan areas this month and going nationwide by next fall.
Called CDMA 1x WIN, the faster service is based on the cdma2000 1x EV-DO (evolution data only) format licensed from Qualcomm Inc. It will be able to download material at rates as high as 2.4 Mbits/s
and upload at 144 kbits/s, the company said. "CDMA 1x WIN will enable real broadband business on cellular phones," said Tadashi Onodera, president of KDDI.
About a half year behind Foma, NTT Docomo Inc.'s 3G service, KDDI launched its 3G service in April 2002 based on cdma2000 1x, which uses packet communications. Taking advantage of backward compatibility with cdmaOne, its 2.5G system, KDDI rapidly increased the subscriber base of cdma2000 1x. It reported more than 10 million subscribers as of Sept. 16 a big lead over Docomo's 1 million subscribers and Vodafone's 83,000 subscribers for their respective wideband-CDMA services as of September. W-CDMA offers data rates as high as 384 kbits/s.
Expecting an increase in packet communication traffic, KDDI introduced a flat-rate system for data communications a monthly charge of about $38. "About 10 million subscribers in Japan pay more than 4,000 yen [about $36] for packet communications every month. We target such heavy users with our new flat-rate charge system," said Onodera.
Multimedia Research Institute Ltd. (Tokyo), a research consultancy, projected in a recent report that 3G phone sales will grow by 41 percent to 10.75 million units during the fiscal year ending next March, adding that KDDI's cdma2000 1x handsets, including EV-DO, will account for about 80 percent of those sales.
Multimedia Research also projected that 3G phone sales will grow to account for 51 percent of Japan's cellular phone market in fiscal 2005.
"Technologywise, no big difficulty is expected in broadband 3G services," said Kazu Saito, senior analyst at the Multimedia Research Institute. Instead, Saito said, the concerns revolve around the issue of fees. "As KDDI has come out with the new flat-rate plan, it will work as an important factor to accelerate 3G penetration."
KDDI will introduce two handsets developed by Hitachi Ltd. and Kyocera Corp., respectively, and one terminal with a PC card interface developed by Kyocera when it launches its new 2.4-Mbit/s service. At that time, KDDI plans to offer a multimedia program distribution service that's able to distribute 3 Mbytes of programming compliant with the synchronized multimedia integration language technology proposed by the World Wide Web Consortium. The size of MPEG-4 video content that can be downloaded will expand to a maximum of 1.5 Mbytes. That will support about 3 minutes of video, the company said, much longer than the 15- to 30-second video footage supported now. KDDI is negotiating with content providers to expand the video content available over its service.