NTT DoCoMo Begins Building LTE Network

Japan's largest cellular provider has embarked on a network upgrade that should enable it to offer high-speed LTE (Long-Term Evolution) data services from around this time next year.

LTE is a new data transmission system that promises to eventually deliver download speeds as fast as 300Mbps and upload speeds of 75Mbps. That's about 40 times the current top download speed of NTT DoCoMo's network and roughly 13 times the upload speed. First-generation services will likely be at slower speeds.

The upgrade work has begun on adding LTE functionality to so-called remote radio equipment (RRE) units. Unlike conventional base stations that house an antenna and switching equipment in a single location, RREs are extensions via optical fiber from major base stations situated in other locations. They enable a single, larger base station to serve a wide area and help in situations where space is limited.

About half of the base stations that will support NTT DoCoMo's initial LTE service will be RREs. The others will be conventional base stations and work on upgrading those has yet to begin.

DoCoMo's LTE service will operate in the 2GHz band, which is one of two radio bands it currently uses for 3G service. The company has set a launch date of December 2010 for the service.

TeliaSonera launched commercial LTE services in Stockholm and Oslo earlier this week, promising download speeds of up to 80Mbps.

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