Japan gets world’s fastest cellphone network for Christmas

Japan gets world’s fastest cellphone network for Christmas

Xi launches next month with blazing mobile data links, but is it 4G?

Docomo SmartphoneDo faster downloads mean even more Tweets and Facebook rants are on the way?Readers outside of Japan who are sick of poor service from their cellphone provider should probably look away now, lest they become enraged with jealousy at the news of Japan’s first next-gen mobile network, which goes live next month courtesy of NTT Docomo. 

The dominant wireless operator in the country says it plans to open its Xi network (Xi should be pronounced "Crossy" according to Docomo) on Christmas Eve, speeding mobile downloads to up to 75Mbps.

Given that the average home Internet connection in the United States is just 3.8Mbps, you get some idea of the boost the 50 million Japanese customers of Docomo can expect if they make the switch. 

Prices aren’t bad either. The maximum monthly charge for using Xi will be pinned at ¥4,935 (US$60) until April 2012. That covers only data connections for now -- the company intends to announce details of the voice offerings next year, presumably in the breathy tones of Darth Vader himself.

And, if you’re curious about the numbers, we’re told the cost to Docomo of blanketing Japan in all this high-speed goodness will eventually come to around ¥305 billion, or US$3.7 billion.

Docomo calls the new network a Long Term Evolution (LTE) step on the relentless march of cellphone technology, but there’s much debate about whether LTE is, in fact, 4G already.

While we don't particularly care for labels, the bottom line is that Xi, which will be available in Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka to start with, is the world’s first major commercial rollout of the next-generation standard.

Smaller operators have already begun limited 4G offerings in places as diverse as Dallas, Oslo and Dublin, while Asia currently has some ongoing trials in China, South Korea and Malaysia.


Former Europe, Japan and Australasia Editor Mark Hiratsuka is an Irish-British journalist with a background in sports, technology, travel and science writing, occasionally all on the same page.

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