"Japan's broadband environment for fixed networks is almost established with the rising tide of ADSL.
"However, as for the world of mobile wireless networks, huge obstacles still exist, such as slow speeds and high costs, which continue to make it beyond the reach from the standpoint of general users.
"In an attempt to reverse the situation, "hotspots" are attracting attention as a potential savior of mobile broadband. This is a service that offers an Mbps-class Internet environment for a communication charge of around 3,000 yen per month. (132.13 yen = US$1)
"More companies are moving into the trial service: East Japan Railway Co., West Japan Railway Co., and a cafe chain company Pronto Corp., and others. NTT Communications Corp. plans to move into a commercial operation as early as April.
"If this goes into full-scale operation, not only the current cellular phones and PHS, but also the third-generation mobile phones will no longer be able to compete with its cost performance. The i-mode oriented low-speed mobile business will then see a major change, too.
"How can such a fast and inexpensive communication environment be possible? This is because hotspots enable pinpoint implementation of the communication equipment at places where many users concentrate and data communications demand tends to be high. Moreover, the required communication apparatuses are the general-purpose products for PCs, such as wireless LAN and Bluetooth. A wireless-communications terminal can be installed easily at the expense of about 200,000 to 300,000 yen, and inexpensive ADSL and optical fiber are used for the circuit connecting each hotspot to the communication carrier. Hotspots realize a fast and inexpensive service by limiting the areas and specializing in data communications.