Intel Pumps Millions Into Japanese WiMax
The money from Intel's investment arm, Intel Capital , will help to fund UQ's goal of covering 90 percent of the country by 2012 with the wireless broadband technology. UQ has committed to spending $1.3 billion to roll out the mobile WiMax network. (See KDDI Nears WiMax Vendor Picks and KDDI's WiMax Picks.)
The financial boost from Intel will also spur on the UQ's official commercial launch next month, which the operator announced today along with some service price details.
UQ is the KDDI Corp. -led consortium whose members include Intel, East Japan Railway Company, Kyocera Corp. (NYSE: KYO), Daiwa Securities Group Inc., and the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd. It won a national license to deliver WiMax services at 2.5 GHz in late 2007. The WiMax service -- dubbed "UQ WiMax" -- has been available on a limited basis since February this year in Tokyo, Yokohama, and Kawasaki, as well as the Tokyo international airport. The full official launch is now scheduled for July 1. (See KDDI Forms Mobile WiMax JV.)
The mobile WiMax services will be up against the 3G HSDPA mobile broadband services of NTT DoCoMo Inc. (NYSE: DCM), SoftBank Mobile Corp. , and eMobile Ltd. with downlink speeds up to 7.2 Mbit/s. The services will go commercial before the other mobile operators, including KDDI, will have licenses for next-generation Long-Term Evolution (LTE) services. (See Pyramid: LTE Growth Will Outpace 3G, KDDI Goes LTE, and DoCoMo LTE Devices in 2010.)
How much for WiMax?
The basic service, called "UQ Flat," will cost ¥4,480 (US$45) per month (plus a registration fee of $29) and the daily-use option will be $6 per day. Free WiFi access is included in the service bundle. And users will be able to add additional WiMax devices to their service for $2 per device.
While UQ will provide retail WiMax services, its business model also includes open access to other service providers and mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs). So, consumers will be able to buy a WiMax device then select a service provider from UQ's "WiMax Integrated Portal," and sign up to a service plan.
UQ says that "several" MVNOs plan to offer services from July 1.
Among the first devices that will be available with the new service are WiMax-embedded laptops from Onkyo, Panasonic Corp. (NYSE: PC), and Toshiba Corp. (Tokyo: 6502), which integrate Intel's dual-mode WiMax/WiFi Link 5150 module and Centrino 2 processor technology.
The company also has a WiMax/WiFi gateway set, which includes a wireless LAN router and a WiMax PC card. The idea is to help users access the mobile WiMax via the wireless LAN router when they're indoors, where coverage may not be good.
With the launch, UQ says it will expand the service areas around metropolitan Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, and Nagoya. The base station suppliers for the mobile WiMax network are Samsung Corp. , Fujitsu Ltd. (Tokyo: 6702; London: FUJ; OTC: FJTSY), and Airspan Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: AIRN), as well as NEC Corp. (Tokyo: 6701). (See Samsung Wins in Japan, Samsung Shows Off WiMax Femto, Airspan Boasts Japan Win, Fujitsu Teams Up to Tackle Mobile WiMax , and UQ Picks NEC WiMax Base Stations.)
— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Unstrung