Business / Corporate

Japan's Docomo, KDDI, SoftBank and Rakuten get mobile phone 5G bands ahead of 2020 launch

Kyodo

The telecom ministry allocated mobile phone frequency bands for superfast 5G services to three major mobile carriers and the e-commerce giant Rakuten Inc. on Wednesday, ahead of an expected full-scale launch in 2020.

After reviewing operational plans by NTT Docomo Inc., KDDI Corp., SoftBank Corp. and Rakuten, an advisory council to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications approved the allocation of 5G frequencies. The ministry issued certificates later in the day.

After conducting trials later this year, the mobile phone carriers plan to start a commercial rollout from 2020, with the 5G technology enabling users to send and receive data some 100 times faster than the current 4G networks allow.

Rakuten plans to begin running 4G services in October while constructing a network that is capable of delivering 5G telecommunications.

Overseas, competition has been heating up for 5G services, which are touted as enabling smartphone users to download a two-hour film in just three seconds, with U.S. and South Korean mobile carriers both claiming to be the world’s first to have launched commercial 5G operations.

U.S. telecommunications conglomerate Verizon Communications Inc. started offering the services in parts of Chicago and Minneapolis on April 3, while South Korea’s three major mobile carriers also enabled it for some celebrities on the same day.

In addition to benefiting smartphone users, the superfast mobile networks are expected to help enable autonomous driving and other technological breakthroughs. For example, medical equipment could be remotely controlled by an off-site doctor thanks to the high-speed data transmission capabilities and lower latency experienced with the new technology.

The “internet of things,” a concept in which a wide range of devices are connected to the internet via wireless networks, may also be boosted by the 5G technology, as it enables an enormous number of simultaneous data transmissions.

Competition among nations and telecom firms is growing fierce, with each looking to take the lead on developing and utilizing 5G networks.

Regarding equipment, the three major Japanese mobile phone carriers and Rakuten have said they will refrain from using products made by Chinese tech giant Huawei Technologies Co., a leader in the field of next-generation wireless services, as well as those of another Chinese telecommunications firm, ZTE Corp.

The Japanese companies have taken the position due to a decision by the government in December to effectively exclude the two Chinese firms from public procurement, reflecting U.S. concerns that their products may facilitate spying and lead to potential disruptions to communication networks.

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