NTT Docomo Pushes 4G Boundaries

Japan's NTT Docomo has long been at the forefront of mobile technology developments, leading the way as it did with mobile commerce and 3G, and it's no different in late 2013.

The Japanese operator, one of the mobile broadband industry's bellwether service providers, has developed, and has started to deploy (in a few major prefectures including Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto), an indoor multiband small cell (mini basestation and antenna) that is compatible with the 1.5GHz and 1.7GHz frequency bands as well as the 2GHz band. (See Asia-Pac's 4G Advances.)

Docomo, which had 15 million 4G customers at the end of July 2013, offers its Xi 4G LTE service over the 2GHz, 1.7GHz, 1.5GHz, and 800MHz bands.

According to NTT DoCoMo Inc. (NYSE: DCM), these small cells can currently deliver downstream speeds of up to 150 Mbit/s (theoretical) over 4G LTE connections, and are already compatible with LTE-Advanced. When Docomo launches its commercial LTE-A service, which is due in the next few years, the maximum downstream speed will increase to 225 Mbit/s, the service provider says. For more details, see this press release.

Providing indoor coverage of mobile broadband services is regarded as critical for 4G service providers, but it's hard to achieve. (See Huawei Broadband World Forum 2013 Highlight Video and Sprint Has Samsung 4G LTE Small Cells: Analyst.)

Docomo also recently announced it had achieved a world first by transmitting wireless data at a speed of more than 1.2 Gbit/s by using a single antenna incorporating a new technology being developed for LTE-Advanced deployments called Smart Vertical MIMO.

According to Docomo, the technology enables a single antenna to "achieve throughput equivalent to that of a four-antenna system," allowing mobile operators to reduce the cost and space of installing antenna equipment while also improving "spectrum utilization efficiency. Space reduction is particularly beneficial for deployments in congested urban areas," notes Docomo in this announcement.

Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

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Liz Greenberg 11/26/2013 | 9:21:38 PM
Re: speed everywhere Good chance IFF (that is if and only if) wireless is without jitter, lag, etc.
DanJones 11/25/2013 | 3:03:12 PM
Re: speed everywhere My bet is that evetually we won't really know what network we're on and WiFi or 4G is likely to be the first choice.
Liz Greenberg 11/25/2013 | 1:51:25 PM
Re: speed everywhere Gabriel, I agree with you that wireline will always be superior for realtime multiway communication (e.g. video chat/conference or gaming) but for the average user downloading video or audio these higher bandwidth channels should be more than sufficient.
Gabriel Brown 11/25/2013 | 5:15:26 AM
Re: speed everywhere Is wireless really comparable? In practice I'm not sure it's consistent and predictable enough to be a true alternative to wireline. A few 10s of miliseconds of extra latency is also noticeable.

Maybe at the low-end, and where wireleine service isn't very good, there could be competition.
Gabriel Brown 11/25/2013 | 5:04:01 AM
Re: speed everywhere This is more or less what EE is planning for next year in the UK using 20 MHz of 1.8 GHz and 20 MHz of 2.6 GHz. It is in trials now with pre-commercial devices. The first target customers will be small business in an area known as Tech City in London.


milan03 11/24/2013 | 9:54:49 PM
Re: speed everywhere Exactly, this is where consumers win.
MordyK 11/24/2013 | 12:29:14 PM
Re: speed everywhere Good points Liz, but have you ever really seen carrier's successfully selling technology they've developed to their peers? That said because this is a spectrum efficiency play where every carrier is looking at any possible "tricks" rather than a service it does stand a relatively good chance of successfully being deployed in other carrier's networks.
Liz Greenberg 11/24/2013 | 12:22:18 PM
Re: speed everywhere I hope that you are right @milan03! If it happens it should scare Comcast, etc as it could encourage movement away from copper, fiber and coaxial solutions and really encourage some price wars.
Liz Greenberg 11/24/2013 | 12:22:17 PM
Re: speed everywhere I hope that you are right @milan03! If it happens it should scare Comcast, etc as it could encourage movement away from copper, fiber and coaxial solutions and really encourage some price wars.
Liz Greenberg 11/24/2013 | 12:19:31 PM
Re: speed everywhere So true Mordy...Japanese society is more uniform than the US so it brings some unique advantages but in this case since it is in the network rather than a handset feature (no flames I understand the handset side is part of the equation), it will be up to the operators to decide whether or not to co-opt the spectral efficiency for consumers to use later. Pretty fun to think about...
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