In a move that may cast fresh doubt over the next-generation mobile phone business, J-Phone Co. said Wednesday it will postpone its launch of third-generation cellular phone service again from June to December.

It is the second delay in one year for the company, owned by British giant Vodafone Group PLC.

The cellular operator said J-Phone had to make software changes to its 3G technology to comply with the latest version of an international technology standard, which was updated in March.

Under the original plan, the nation’s third-largest cellular operator would launch 3G service in the Tokyo metropolitan area in June, and in other major cities across the country in October.

But J-Phone now plans to launch a trial service in the Tokyo area in June, and full-fledged commercial service in Tokyo and other major cities in December, J-Phone President Darryl Green said at a news conference.

Green stressed that the postponement was due solely to technological reasons, as experts requested major changes to the 3G phone standard to tighten security between antenna bases and handsets.

The decision, however, could again spotlight uncertainty about the future of the 3G technology and application business.

Apparently due to lack of attractive content and technical shortcomings of handsets, NTT DoCoMo Inc., the world’s first full-fledged 3G cellular operator, has signed up only 103,200 subscribers as of Tuesday, compared with the original target of 150,000 by the end of March.

Green stressed that the business performance of DoCoMo’s 3G service has nothing to do with J-Phone’s decision to postpone.

“We believe that rich services of 3G have lots of various potential,” Green said. “We haven’t become at all pessimistic about the 3G service.”

In March last year, J-Phone announced a postponement of the 3G launch from December to June of this year, citing similar technological reasons to secure global compatibility.

With the 3G technology, J-Phone plans to offer packet data communications of up to 384 kilobits per seconds as well as an international roaming service based on the global standard set by the 3G Partnership Project experts.

Wireless broadband

Softbank Corp. said Wednesday it will launch a new wireless high-speed Internet access service for a monthly fee of 2,280 yen after a trial service to begin later this month.

The new service, Yahoo BB Mobile, employs a high-speed, wireless local area network and can download video and other data at speeds of up to 8 megabits per second.

It enables users within the service areas to access the Internet both indoors and outdoors without hooking up to a telephone line.

A wireless LAN card, at a monthly rental fee of 390 yen, will be needed to receive the service.

Details of the service, including its launch date and service areas, will be announced later, the company said.

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