RealTime IT News

Japan cdmaOne Tops One Million Subscribers

Lured by improved voice clarity and the prospect of high-speed wireless Internet access, more than a half million Japanese consumers have subscribed to cdmaOne's cellular phone services in the past three months.

cdmaOne is the name given to the IS95-CDMA (code division multiple access), a digital cellular phone services offered in Japan by DDI Corp. and IDO Corp..

In addition to providing top-quality voice communication, cdmaOne systems technology enables small mobile handsets to be used as high-speed multimedia information terminals. In mid-April, DDI and IDO jointly achieved nationwide cdmaOne service coverage. Through their various regional companies, cdmaOne is now accessible by 95 percent of Japan's population.

In March, DDI and IDO signed a memorandum of understanding with Hutchison Telecom (Hong Kong) and Shinsegi Telecomm Inc. (Korea) that should make "roaming" -- the ability to use a single handset and mobile number while traveling -- possible in Japan, Hong Kong, Korea, and beyond by December.

Overseas roaming has so far been impossible for Japanese cellular users since Japan's pre-cdmaOne cellular network was effectively a closed, proprietary system.

According to the CDMA Development Group (CDG), a 100-member nonprofit trade association, cdmaOne is now in commercial service in 27 countries and is the world's fastest growing wireless standard.

Worldwide cdmaOne subscriptions had reached 28.5 million as of the end of March, a three-fold increase within one year.

cdmaOne subscriptions in Japan, meanwhile, hit the half-million mark in mid-March, about 8 months after DDI's July 1998 inauguration of regional cdmaOne services. Japan's cdmaOne subscriptions then surged to the million mark two months later, on May 26.

"We attribute our rapidly growing subscriber base to the ability of cdmaOne to deliver the most advanced services, such as short messaging services, Internet access, and high speed data transmission," said Kiyoshi Sato, director and general manager of DDI's planning department, mobile communications group.

While the one million cdmaOne subscribers represent only about 2 percent of Japan's 48.3 million cellular and personal handyphone system (PHS) subscriptions (as of May 1), the proportion was zero just 10 months before.

DDI and IDO hope that being first-to-market in Japan with a CDMA network will enable them to gain on NTT DoCoMo, which currently dominates Japan's cellular market with a 57 percent share.

NTT DoCoMo began testing a rival Wide-CDMA network in 1998, and plans to launch commercial service sometime in 2000.

DDI and IDO's current cdmaOne network supports 14.4 kbps data transmission, but the companies hope to be first in the world to introduce high-speed packet data communications services, most likely in December. Field testing of 64kbps downstream (base station to handset) and 14.4 kbps upstream (handset to base station) packet services are to begin this month.

Perry LaForge, executive director of CDG, said that DDI and IDO's planned service offerings "give both companies a competitive advantage, especially as the technically savvy Asia-Pacific region prepares to offer 3G [third-generation] services, such as high-speed data capabilities and Internet access."

cdmaOne, declared LaForge, "is poised to become the wireless pipeline to the Internet."