New Softbank lineup stresses need for speed

by Kazuaki Nagata

Staff Writer

The new product lineup unveiled Thursday by Softbank Corp. reflected the intensifying competition among carriers to provide the fastest ready phones and network services.

The rapidly expanding number of smartphone users is putting pressure on carriers to beef up networks to give customers the quickest and smoothest connections.

“The point of the new product lineup this time is ultrahigh speed,” said Softbank President Masayoshi Son during the unveiling event.

Of the 11 new smartphones, all based on Google’s Android operating system, four have download speeds as fast as 21 Mbps, which is about three times faster than Softbank’s previous general models.

These are the first handsets that can connect to the Ultra Speed network service Softbank launched last year.

The Ultra Speed-ready models include Sharp Corp.’s Aquos, equipped with a 4.5-inch multitouch screen, dual core CPU and 12.1 megapixel camera; and Panasonic Corp.’s Lumix, which is designed to look like a compact digital camera and has a 4-inch screen.

Softbank is planning its own new high-speed network service for the fall called Softbank 4G, which will provide download speeds up to 110 Mbps.

Son said the company will invest tens of billions of yen to develop the network infrastructure for the 4G service. The company earlier announced it will invest a total of ¥1 trillion in this and the following business years to strengthen its network infrastructure.

“The speed of the communication network is really essential” when using smartphones that heavily feature Internet-based services, said Son.

Son declined comment on recent reports that rival KDDI Corp. will also start selling Apple Inc.’s popular iPhone, which is currently only sold through Softbank.

Apple will hold a press event on Oct. 4 in the U.S., at which the latest iPhone is expected to be unveiled.

Although Softbank has so far been the only iPhone provider in Japan, Son has said his company does not have exclusive rights to the device.