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NTT DoCoMo trailblazing in 4G

Posted by: Kenji Hall on February 23, 2006

And you thought 3G was fast. Japan’s No. 1 cell phone service operator, NTT DoCoMo, says today that it successfully completed a field experiment, in Yokosuka, west of Tokyo, with fourth-generation cell phone technology that would let you download an entire CD in two seconds or a two-hour movie on DVD in 12 seconds. DoCoMo researchers tested the transmission rate (2.5 Gigabits per second) while riding in a car traveling roughly 20 km per hour (12 1/2 miles per hour).

To give you an idea of how much faster that transmission speed is than current technology, consider this: Over your average DSL broadband connection, it would take 2 minutes to download the CD and 11 minutes to download the DVD. A cell phone would probably take 15 times as long.

DoCoMo says ([no]=615) its results beat the International Telecommunication Union Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R)'s proposed standard.

OK. But you won't be able to go to your local Circuit City and buy a cell phone that can blow away land-based broadband connections anytime soon. After all, telcos like DoCoMo are still struggling to get consumers to convert to 3G cell phones, which remain a mere slice of the entire market. DoCoMo wasn't even testing its new technology on a real handset: It had rigged some high-powered machines with six antenna that were simultaneously sending and receiving data. Still, the test, conducted back on Dec. 14, shows DoCoMo is making progress as it races to meet a government target of having 4G service up and running around 2010, and as it tiptoes into markets abroad. (See BW, 17/1/06, "DoCoMo Is Looking Abroad--Again")

What's more, the transmission rates were 2.5 times speedier than DoCoMo's tests run just seven months earlier. And since 4G is based on "packet-switched" technology for both voice and data (current cell phones only use this method for data), the tests offer evidence that it can be done. I wouldn't be surprised if, at some point in the not-so-distant future, the Hollywood studios get us hooked downloading high-definition movies to a cell phone or other mobile gizmo, much the same way recording companies nowadays have Japanese consumers in the habit of downloading tunes to their cell phones.

Reader Comments


May 11, 2006 8:27 PM

Digital video players have a pretty strong hold in the states, so it'll be interesting to see how the market responds to videophones when (and if) the U.S. ever rolls out a faster service.

Of course, landline phones also used to be a dominant force too.

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