NTT DOCOMO, Japan’s pioneer of the mobile Internet and the world’s first provider of third-generation mobile service based on W-CDMA technology, once again made history when it launched Japan’s first LTE (Long Term Evolution) mobile service on December 24.
Available initially in major urban markets, the new LTE network enables DOCOMO to deliver all-new services and mobile experiences to customers, while also creating important new sources of data revenue for the company.
Back in 2004, DOCOMO proposed the “Super 3G” concept to the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), the cross-industry group handling 3G standardization. The concept subsequently became known as LTE. In the years that followed, DOCOMO actively contributed to the realization of LTE specifications, which were finalized in 2008.
DOCOMO began developing its own experimental LTE system in 2007. System testing started in July 2007 and downlink rates of 250 Mbps were confirmed outdoors by March the following year.
To ensure a fast, smooth introduction of commercial LTE services, DOCOMO also developed equipment to migrate existing network infrastructure. In late 2009, the company revealed new remote radio equipment (RRE), which allowed LTE base stations to be installed in existing W-CDMA base stations.
Final verification of DOCOMO’s LTE network commenced in the Tokyo area in June 2010. And lastly, in July, the company unveiled the service’s brand name, written Xi™ and pronounced “crossy.” The “X” denotes “connection” and “infinite possibility,” while the “i” represents “individual user” and “innovation.”
At launch, the service covers the major urban centers of Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka, with plans to reach 70 percent of the Japanese population by March 2015. Users leaving the LTE service area are seamlessly handed over to DOCOMO’s high-quality FOMA™ 3G network, which serves all communities nationwide.
Starting with an LTE data service for PC users, DOCOMO plans to introduce LTE-compatible handsets, including voice service over the FOMA network, by March 2012.
In most outdoor areas, transmission speeds are up to 37.5 Mbps for the downlink and 12.5 Mbps for the uplink, but in heavily used indoor areas, such as the terminals at Tokyo International Airport, customers can enjoy up to 75 Mbps for the downlink, approximately 10 times faster than DOCOMO’s current 3G service with HSPA.
LTE also averages about three times more data in the downlink and two to three times more in the uplink, and transmission latency is just one-fourth that of HSPA.
DOCOMO’s LTE network is based on 3GPP Release 8 and operates in the frequency-division duplex (FDD) mode, which uses separate frequencies for both downlink and uplink transmissions in the 2 GHz band.
Low latency and other advanced capabilities enable LTE to support cloud-based mobile services, which are expected to become a major growth area for DOCOMO.
But what do all these figures mean for the LTE customer? Think: videophone with simultaneous interpretation. Once international roaming is added, an unprecedented cloud-based mobile service will enable users not only to see counterparts overseas, but also communicate with them effortlessly via simultaneous interpretation.
In addition, augmented-reality mobile services may someday revolutionize the way people approach daily activities such as shopping and education. When buying furniture, for example, people might use an augmented-reality service to choose the best style and color of sofa. It will be as easy as pointing an LTE phone camera at a spot in the home and then viewing images of various sofas as they merge seamlessly with the live image on the phone’s screen.
Over the next few years, DOCOMO will implement an aggressive plan to expand its LTE service. As of the end of March 2011, more than USD400 million will have been invested on a network covering about 1,000 base stations and serving about seven percent of the population.
By March 2013, however, DOCOMO plans to have spent in excess of USD3.6 billion on a network encompassing some 15,000 base stations and serving 40 percent of the population. It is expected that a quarter of the company’s subscribers, or 15 million people, will have migrated to LTE by March 2015.
And what do these figures mean for DOCOMO? Think: revenue. With the many-fold increase in data capacity, the company believes LTE services will help to push data revenue well beyond voice revenue. The shift will be especially important to DOCOMO as it expands its ex-voice services for both data and non-data, aiming to achieve consolidated operating income in excess of USD10 billion by the fiscal year ending in March 2013.