Light Reading

Vendors Invest in Softbank Wireless Broadband

Craig Matsumoto
LR Mobile News Analysis
Craig Matsumoto

Japanese giant SoftBank Corp. is reviving the wireless network of bankrupt Willcom with financial help from five base station vendors: Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , Nokia Networks , and ZTE Corp. (Shenzhen: 000063; Hong Kong: 0763), as The Nikkei recently reported.

Through a new entity named Wireless City Planning Inc., Softbank intends to offer a next-generation wireless service on Willcom's personal handyphone service (PHS) network. But Softbank is prohibited from owning more than one-third of another PHS vendor. So, Softbank is taking one-third of Wireless City, with a second third being owned by Advantage Partners, a Japanese venture firm. The final third is being split evenly among the five equipment vendors, The Nikkei reports.

Why this matters
For one thing, it's an interesting revival of vendor financing. The big-name base station vendors were shut out of Japan's 2G wireless market due to proprietary standards; they might see Wireless City as a chance to improve their standing in the country, as The Nikkei notes.

The deal might also mark the official death of XGP, the Japan-only 4G protocol that Willcom intended to use. Japan had been expected to favor TD-LTE instead, and it seems unlikely Softbank could have gotten big equipment vendors interested in an XGP play.

Finally, the Wireless City service sounds just plain cool, with promised speeds of 100 Mbit/s by March 2012 and 90 percent of the population covered by March 2013.

For more

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

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Pete Baldwin
Pete Baldwin,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:15:17 PM
re: Vendors Invest in Softbank Wireless Broadband

Before this stuff happened, I was talking with Wavesat about their work in Japan, and the impression I got was that XGP is basically dead -- TD-LTE wins out instead. (Wavesat supplied XGP chips, as does Altair, I think. Wavesat didn't seem particularly distraught about the move to TD-LTE.)

I don't know much about the wireless options in Japan, though. Is it fair to say XGP is dead, or is there still a chance Softbank (or someone) could use it?  (Or, does anybody even care?)

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