KDDI goes WiMAX with new handsets

by Kazuaki Nagata

Staff Writer

Aiming to differentiate itself from its smartphone rivals, KDDI Corp. unveiled a new handset lineup Monday that features models compatible with the high-speed WiMAX network.

WiMAX is a high-speed communications network operated by KDDI affiliate UQ Communications Inc. Its capacity for uploading and downloading data is several times bigger than the 3G network, the cellphone industry’s main network.

With the rapid spread of smartphones, the mobile Internet experience is becoming more popular in Japan. People with smartphones are on the Internet three times as much as their standard cellphone counterparts, said KDDI President Takashi Tanaka, citing recent research.

Tanaka said smartphone users want a network that gives them a fast and smooth Net experience.

“We thought about how we should respond to customers’ needs. Our answer is WiMAX,” he said during the unveiling event in Tokyo.

Of KDDI’s six new models, four are WiMAX and 3G ready.

One of the models is the HTC EVO 3D made by Taiwan-based HTC Corp., which has a 3-D, 4.3 -inch multitouch screen and a dual-core CPU.

Another is the Arrows Z from Fujitsu Toshiba Mobile Communications Ltd., a waterproof model with a 4.3-inch multitouch screen and dual-core CPU. It also has an e-wallet function.

KDDI, operator of the au mobile phone service, offers unlimited WiMAX use for an additional ¥525 per month.

Because smartphone users spend more time on the Internet, cellphone carriers are facing a huge increase in 3G data traffic, and concerns are growing that they may not be able to meet future demand.

The WiMAX network is considered key to reducing the burden on the 3G network for KDDI.

While Tanaka said KDDI still has enough room for 3G traffic at this point, “in 2013 or 2014, half of the entire data traffic must be handled by non-3G networks.”

But he said WiMAX is not the only option, because KDDI is also aiming to expand WiFi and fixed-line services.

NTT DoCoMo Inc. introduced its own high-speed data communications service, Xi, last December based on a new-generation mobile broadband standard called Long-Term Evolution.

As for recent media reports that KDDI will also start selling the new iPhone, Tanaka declined to comment on all iPhone-related questions.