Softbank’s new lineup heavy on fast Wi-Fi

by Kazuaki Nagata

Softbank Corp. unveiled 22 new mobile phone models for its winter-spring lineup Tuesday with a special focus on Wi-Fi and a new service that uses the wireless system to access the Internet.

“Today’s biggest keyword is Wi-Fi. This one word,” Masayoshi Son, Softbank CEO, said during a presentation in Tokyo of the new products.

Eight of the 22 new phone models have built-in Wi-Fi, which enables handsets to connect to the Internet about 7.5 times faster than the 3G cellular connection, according to the company.

The eight models include Sharp Corp.’s Aquos 941SH, Panasonic Corp.’s Viera 941P and Toshiba Corp.’s full touch panel phone Dynapocket X02T.

By taking advantage of the faster connection speed, the company plans to launch a new service Keitai Wi-Fi Channel.

It will provide video programs, including dramas and comedies, and enable users to rent a video through the connection from a choice of 2,000 titles. Users will also be able to read newspapers and magazines with the same layout as their hard-copy versions.

“If you try to read all the pages (of newspapers or magazines), the 3G connection is slow,” said Son, stressing Wi-Fi’s potential to become the norm. “I think there will be time where people can connect to Wi-Fi for 80 percent of their lifestyle scene.”

Son said Softbank plans to expand Wi-Fi access spots. To use Wi-Fi, users need to purchase a Wi-Fi package that includes a ¥490 monthly user fee and ¥4,410 for an unlimited connection.

Softbank also announced that the new lineup has a phone with Google’s Android operating system. However, details of the phone were not disclosed, including the provider and its appearance, except that it has a 3.7-inch screen and 1-gigahertz chip.

Other new models sport a fashionable look, including Panasonic’s Color Life 840P, with 15 different colors available, and Sharp’s Jelly Beans 840SH, with seven different colors.