The Japanese giant, which has tested the service extensively in Tokyo, said last month it would launch on December 24, so has hit its own deadline. (See NTT Docomo Sets LTE Date and LTE Watch: Hello Tokyo.)
The service, called Xi (pronounced "crossy"), is available in Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka. The operator plans to expand the service to cover 70 percent of Japan's population by March 2015, by which time it expects to have 15 million LTE customers.
The launch service is for data connectivity to PC dongles only, with Docomo planning to offer LTE-compatible handsets, which would enable voice services running over the operator's 3G network, by March 2012.
According to the operator, the service delivers downlink speeds of up to 37.5 Mbit/s and uplink speeds of up to 12.5 Mbit/s, though in certain indoor service areas, such as Tokyo airport, those downlink speeds can reach 75 Mbit/s (10 times faster than 3G HSPA).
The operator has achieved much faster speeds in trials, though. (See DoCoMo Takes LTE to 250 Mbit/s.)
The operator adds that, by March 2011, it will have spent US$400 million on 1,000 LTE base stations that will cover 7 percent of the Japanese population. And by March 2013 it expects to have spent $3.6 billion to build out 15,000 base stations, covering 40 percent of the Japanese population. That's encouraging news for the likes of Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Fujitsu Ltd. (Tokyo: 6702; London: FUJ; OTC: FJTSY), NEC Corp. (Tokyo: 6701), and Stoke Inc. (See NEC Supplies More LTE to DoCoMo, Fujitsu Ships LTE RAN to DoCoMo, Stoke Lands LTE Gig at DoCoMo, NTT DoCoMo Picks AlcaLu , and DoCoMo Backhauls With NEC.)
Why this matters
NTT Docomo is a global mobile pioneer, has been instrumental in the development of the LTE standard, and is highly regarded by its international peers, which look to the Japanese operator to learn about service developments. So it's important for the global community that Docomo is one of the first operators out of the blocks with LTE services. (See DoCoMo Develops LTE Handsets.)
In addition, the operator is keen to utilize the new technology to develop enhanced mobile services, such as cloud applications. It recently highlighted the latency gains (important for cloud-based data services with service-level agreements) that LTE brings over 3G technologies, and noted today that "transmission latency is just one-fourth that of HSPA." (See Docomo Links LTE to the Cloud.)
Oh, and it always wanted to be the first Japanese operator to launch LTE. (See KDDI Picks Challengers for LTE Deployment.)
LTE service launches are happening all over the world:
- Elisa Launches Business LTE Service
- TeliaSonera Launches LTE in Denmark
- Verizon's LTE Debut: Keep It Simple, Stupid
- TeliaSonera Launches 4G in Finland
- Vodafone Beats Deutsche Telekom to LTE Launch
- CSL Launches HSPA+/LTE Network
- LTE Showdown in Sweden
- MetroPCS Saddles Up LTE in Dallas
- TeliaSonera First to Go Live With LTE
— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading