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4G/3G/WiFi

NTT Docomo Sets LTE Date

NTT DoCoMo Inc. (NYSE: DCM) will launch data-only Long Term Evolution (LTE) services in Japan on December 24, and plans to offer LTE voice services after April 2011, becoming one of the world's first operators to offer the next-generation mobile broadband service.

Docomo plans several different tariffs for the Xi service, ranging from ¥1,000 (US$12) per month for up to 3 GBytes of data to ¥7,980 ($98) per month for up to 5 GBytes. A special deal is available until April 2011 that offers 5 GBytes of data for ¥6,405 ($79) per month.

The Japanese operator did not state what the average data rate expectations are for its LTE network, but said the theoretical maximum downlink speed will be 37.5 Mbit/s and the maximum uplink speed will be 12.5 Mbit/s. In some buildings, however, the operator noted that the maximum downlink and uplink speeds will be up to 75 Mbit/s and 37.5 Mbit/s.

Why this matters
Docomo will be the first operator in Japan to offer LTE services, and will join Telia Company and MetroPCS Inc. (NYSE: PCS) as the world's first commercial LTE operators. The launch date of Docomo's LTE service, dubbed "Xi" (pronounced "crossy"), is also important because it means the operator will hit its long-held target of launching LTE services in December 2010.

With the "Voice over LTE" issue such a hot topic in the mobile market, Docomo's approach will be closely monitored by other carriers. The operator says Xi voice services will be available sometime after April 2011, when it plans to introduce LTE handsets. For the initial data-only offer, the first device available will be a dual-mode 3G/LTE USB stick, the L-02C. (See MetroPCS Plots LTE Smartphones, VoLTE Trials, LTE Voice Lag Leaves Operators Vulnerable , and LTE TDD: In Mobile, Size Matters.)

For more
In separate news announcements today, Docomo unveiled a new line-up of 28 devices, including two LTE USB sticks, and said it would expand its "docomo market" app store to i-mode device users.

For additional background about Docomo's LTE network plans, see these related stories:

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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