NTT DoCoMo Plans Two-year $3.3 Billion Investment in LTE

NTT DoCoMo plans to invest ¥270 billion (US$3.3 billion) over the next two years rolling out next-generation LTE cellular data service to major cities across Japan, it said Friday.

The company is spending ¥35 billion this fiscal year (April 2010 to March 2011) on an initial roll-out of the technology to Tokyo and two other major cities.

The latest investment plan, disclosed on Friday as part of the carrier's quarterly earnings announcement, puts three-year spending on LTE at ¥305 billion. DoCoMo had previously said it would spend between ¥300 billion and ¥400 billion over five years, so the latest figures add a little more detail to that plan.

LTE is new packet data transmission technology that's based on IP, the same basic protocol as the Internet. It's seen as a replacement for current 3G networks and promises faster data transfers. NTT DoCoMo says its network will support speeds of up to 75Mbps.

For carriers it offers ten times the data speed, three times the spectrum efficiency and a cut in data transmission latency of as much as three-quarters. For consumers, the technology could also reduce the per-byte cost of data communications.

The service is scheduled to launch in December in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya from around 1,000 base stations.

In the next financial year, which is the period from April 2011 to March 2012, DoCoMo plans to invest ¥100 billion to add an additional 4,000 base stations. That will increase coverage from 7 percent of the population to 20 percent.

In the following year, ending in March 2013, DoCoMo plans to significantly expand the network with an investment of ¥170 billion. It will add 15,000 base stations to push coverage to 40 percent of the population.

The LTE service will launch with data modems for personal computers. A personal Wi-Fi hotspot device will be offered around the middle of 2011 and cell phones with LTE will be available in late 2011, according to the carrier's plans.

Details of the service and initial pricing plans will be disclosed in a Tokyo news conference on Nov. 8.

NTT DoCoMo was the first carrier in the world to offer commercial 3G service, but it's been beaten to that title for LTE.

Sweden's TeliaSonera launched a commercial LTE network in December 2009 and is expanding it to cover 25 cities by the end of this year. LTE networks are also being rolled out in several other countries including the U.S.

Martyn Williams covers Japan and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

To comment on this article and other PCWorld content, visit our Facebook page or our Twitter feed.
Shop Tech Products at Amazon