Intel’s venture capital arm is investing US$43 million in a Tokyo-based WiMax operator that plans to launch the world’s fastest WiMax service in July.
The investment, from Intel Capital, will help UQ Communications to build-out its network, which is now under test in Tokyo. The service offers download speeds of up to 40Mbps and uploads at up to 10Mbps. It will be formally launched on July 1.
The network currently covers Tokyo and the nearby cities of Kawasaki and Yokohama and will expand to cover additional cities later this year. UQ plans to offer coverage of over 90 percent of the population by 2012.
Intel has backed the company from the time it applied to the Japanese government to launch service. UQ Communications is also backed by KDDI, Japan’s number two cellular carrier, JR East, the major railway operator in Eastern Japan, Kyocera, Daiwa Securities and Tokyo Mitsubishi Bank.
UQ enters the Japanese market at a time of increased competition in the data transmission market.
While Japanese cellular carriers were ahead of the world in offering mobile Internet service to cell phone users, they lagged in providing similar services to PC users. That market was kicked off by the emergence of E-Mobile, a data-focused carrier that offered the country’s first flat-rate HSDPA (high-speed downlink packet access) service.
Other cellular carriers are now offering their own competing services and NTT DoCoMo, Japan’s leading cellular carrier, plans to offer an HSUPA service with uploads as fast as 5.7Mbps later this year. Download speeds are also due to be increased to 14Mbps later this year. While slower than UQ’s data offering, the service is more widely available.