Japan's EMobile Pumps Up Its HSPA+

EMobile Ltd. , Japan's smallest mobile operator, has deployed HSPA+, also known as HSPA Evolved, in the country's major cities, including Tokyo, Osaka, Yokohama, and Nagoya. (See EMobile Launches HSPA+.)

This deployment is based on equipment from Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), which supplied the core network and core systems integration services as well as the majority of the radio access network. It builds out the geographical coverage for HSPA+ that EMobile has already established using Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. equipment in a number of Japan's other cities, including Hokkaido, Sendai, Niigata, Hiroshima, Fukuoka, and Nagasaki. (See Huawei, EMobile Launch HSPA+.)

Japan is a market with a reputation for being first with new technology, but HSPA+ has been passed over, most notably by market leader NTT DoCoMo Inc. (NYSE: DCM), which has focused on moving to Long-Term Evolution (LTE) as fast as possible.

The No. 2 player, KDDI Corp. , is similarly pushing toward LTE, although from a CDMA base that takes HSPA out of the equation, while SoftBank Mobile Corp. is known to have run HSPA+ lab trials and has also said it will move to LTE when it gets the necessary spectrum. (See DoCoMo Shells Out on LTE and KDDI Picks Challengers for LTE Deployment.)

EMobile is by far the smallest of Japan's operators, with just 1.67 million subscribers at the end of the second quarter, compared to DoCoMo's 54.86 million, KDDI's 31 million, and Softbank's 20.96 million customers, according to Wireless Intelligence .

However, EMobile positions itself as an access provider, bundling its voice services with data access at low prices. It therefore sees the speed advantage that HSPA+ brings as a clear differentiator that enhances the company's mobile Internet access proposition.

Telstra Corp. Ltd. (ASX: TLS; NZK: TLS) in Australia was the first in the world to offer commercial HSPA+ services. Five other Asian operators now offer the 21-Mbit/s services, while Dialog Telekom in Sri Lanka is trialing HSPA+, and both Chunghwa Telecom Co. Ltd. (NYSE: CHT) in Taiwan and Telecom New Zealand Ltd. (NYSE: NZT; New Zealand: TEL) have announced plans to launch next year, as shown in the table below. (See Telstra Debuts Fast Mobile Broadband, Telstra Launches HSPA+ Device, StarHub Launches HSPA+, Dialog Talks Up HSPA+, and CSL Launches HSPA+.)

Table 1: HSPA+ Deployments in Asia
Operator Country Status RAN Vendor(s)
Telstra Australia Commercial since February 2009 Ericsson
PCCW Hong Kong Commercial trials since December 2008; Full launch planned 2H09 Huawei
CSL Hong Kong Commercial since March 2009 ZTE
Starhub Singapore Commercial since March 2009 Huawei
Emobile Japan Commercial since July 2009 Ericsson and Huawei
Dialog Sri Lanka Trials since April 2009 Ericsson
Chunghwa Taiwan Planned 2010 NSN
Telecom New Zealand New Zealand Planned Spring 2010 Alcatel-Lucent
Source: Company information

— Catherine Haslam, Asia Editor, Light Reading

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