Published: 7 February, 2011
NTT DoCoMo is always ahead of the curve when it comes to a new wireless standard, and it aims to be one of the first carriers to trial and even implement LTE-Advanced. The Japanese carrier will start testing the technology, which is not finalized as a standard yet, in the field within a few months.
There have already been laboratory trials of pre-standard LTE-Advanced, which aims to take the platform into the realms of 'true 4G' - not just a marketing slogan but actually hitting the ITU's definition of gigabit download speeds when stationary, or 100Mbps when mobile. Korean research institute ETRI announced tests of the system last week and believes Korean cellcos will go commercial with it as early as 2013, and DoCoMo could well be in the same timeframe.
DoCoMo traditionally has a major influence on new standards, and a significant IPR position, though with LTE it has been less aggressive than in 3G, where it deployed its own implementation of W-CDMA before the standard was even completed. This condemned it to many years of incompatibility with other 3G carriers, and with 4G, it has gone live in the first wave of deployments, but with fully standardized equipment, and behind the first roll-outs in Scandinavia.
It has now received its test license for LTE-Advanced from the Japanese regulator and will be able to start field and outdoor trials. It plans to build a test network near capital Tokyo, in the cities of Yokosuka and Sagamihara.
The conventional LTE network is now commercially available in Tokyo and two other major cities, promising download speeds of up to 37.5Mbps, though in reality users in many areas have reported far slower rates. DoCoMo plans to spend ¥100bn ($750m) this year to more than double coverage to around 20% of Japan's population. As of the end of January it had attracted 5,000 users.