Friday, 17 April 2020

5G Officially Makes a Debut in Japan

Statistics source: We are social

If you follow the 5G developments closely, you may have thought that 5G was available in Japan for a while. NTT Docomo has been talking about 5G for the last 5 years. Finally, 5G has launched commercially in the country.

Three out of four Japanese mobile service providers launched 5G services on three successive days at the end of March 2020. The fourth local player Rakuten Mobile is expected to follow in June 2020.


NTT DoCoMo launched Japan’s first 5G smartphone service on March 25, 2020. The network is live in 150 areas in Japan covering 29 of the nation’s 47 prefectures. Customers can get 1 GB of data at 1,980 JPY (16.8 EUR) or 100GB of data at 7,650 JPY (62 EUR) per month, excluding taxes.

According to the operator, the network will continue to expand throughout June, ultimately reaching 500 cities by March 2021, and will have an initial maximum downlink data rate of 3.4 Gbps, followed by a speed of 4.1 Gbps expected in June. In addition, the uplink will start at a 182 Mbps peak, before increasing to 480 Mbps. NTT Docomo anticipates it will have 10,000 base stations by the end of June 2021, and 20,000 by the end of March 2022.

While KDDI launched 5G mobile services in 15 of Japan’s 47 prefectures on March 26, 2020. The operator said it aims to install 10,000 base transceiver stations by 31 March 2021 and another 10,000 BTS by the end of March 2022. Customers can get unlimited data and 30 GB for tethering at 3,460 JPY (29 EUR) per month, 60 GB for tethering at 4,260 JPY (36 EUR), and 80 GB for tethering at 5,460 JPY (46 EUR). Last plan includes streaming from Netflix, YouTube Premium and Apple Music.

SoftBank turned-on its 5G network on March 27, 2020. 5G mobile services are available in selected areas in seven prefectures across Japan for an additional charge of 1 000 JPY (8 EUR) per month. The operator aims to install over 10,000 5G base stations by the end of March 2023 and expects population coverage to reach 90% by the end of 2021.

KDDI and SoftBank had in 2019 cemented a 5G network sharing agreement, by establishing a joint venture to oversee build-out of the technology in rural areas. In a joint statement, the companies said the 50:50 joint venture 5G Japan would oversee “mutual use” of their existing base stations along with construction design and management of new sites. At time they explained joint trials were being readied in Asahikawa City in Hokkaido, Narita City in Chiba prefecture and Fukuyama City in Hiroshima prefecture.

On its newly inaugurated website, 5G Japan explained the higher frequency bands being used for the next-generation technology, including the 28GHz and 3.7GHz bands, required a long-term commitment to, and large investment in, infrastructure construction.

KDDI and SoftBank committed to “rapidly” construct 5G networks to serve all industries with the aim to raise “Japan’s international competitiveness by contributing to its industrial development, regional revitalisation and national resilience.”

Rakuten, the new operator on the market has already garnered 2.3 million customers on its MVNO network. Rakuten Mobile made a full-scale entry into the mobile phone market on April 8, 2020, when the company turned on its 4G network. The greenfield operator plans to launch its 5G operation in June 2020.

Even as the Japanese operators make significant 5G progress, it cannot be ignored that the COVID-19 pandemic is threatening 5G deployments.

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