Intel-Backed Group to Earn Japan WiMax License

A consortium led by Japanese telecommunications company KDDI and backed by Intel will receive one of two WiMax licenses to be awarded soon by the Japanese government, a report said Tuesday.

The group, called Wireless Broadband Planning, and one led by rival carrier Willcom will be recommended by Japan's Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications on Friday to a panel charged with selecting the groups to win the licenses, said the Tuesday morning edition of The Nikkei newspaper. The panel is expected to follow the ministry's recommendations.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications could not immediately be reached for comment.

Intel owns a 17.65 percent stake in Wireless Broadband Planning. The stake is matched by East Japan Railway and Kyocera, and all three sit behind leading shareholder KDDI, which has a 32.26 percent stake.

The WiMax services will operate in the 2.5GHz band and will be capable of providing data service at up to 20M bps (bits per second) to terminals travelling at up to 100 kilometers per hour, according to the Japanese government.

Japan's cell phone carriers have been testing WiMax for some time, and Tuesday's report, if confirmed, will mean that market leader NTT DoCoMo and number three-ranked Softbank probably will have to lease networks from KDDI or Willcom if they are to offer competing services.

KDDI is Japan's number two cellular carrier. It had 29 million subscriptions to its CDMA2000 (Code Division Multiple Access) cell phone service at the end of November this year, according to official figures. Willcom, which uses the PHS (Personal Handyphone System) technology to offer a data-centric service, had 4.6 million subscriptions.

In contrast, NTT DoCoMo had 53 million subscriptions, and Softbank had 17.4 million subscriptions. Both carriers operate WCDMA (Wideband CDMA) networks.

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