NTT DoCoMo has announced that on 27 January the Kanto Bureau of Telecommunications of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC) licensed it to begin pilot trials of 4G LTE-Advanced technology, which promises to provides data rates much faster than currently possible with LTE. The cellco intends to launch field experiments to evaluate LTE-Advanced in real radio environments in the cities of Yokosuka and Sagamihara in Kanagawa Prefecture. DoCoMo has already confirmed that in trials of the ‘true’ 4G platform in its R&D centre, it achieved transmission rates of around 1Gbps (downlink) and 200Mbps (uplink). Once DoCoMo’s test equipment is installed and checked by the MIC, the cellco will be issued a full licence allowing trials to begin. It hopes this will happen by end-March.
DoCoMo’s announcement on LTE-Advanced, which incidentally is backwards compatible with LTE, comes just months after it launched its commercial LTE network Xi in December, promising download speeds of up to 37.5Mbps and maximum upload speeds up 12.5Mbps. TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database writes that DoCoMo expects to have 1,000 base stations operational by the close of its current financial year (31 March 2011). By that date it will have invested JPY35 billion (USD426 million) in its LTE network, installing 800 base stations in Tokyo and 100 each in Nagoya and Osaka. By the end of the following financial year the carrier intends to have invested a further USD1.22 billion to take its total LTE base station count to 5,000 – sufficient to cover 20% of the population and capable of supporting cloud services. In fiscal 2012/13 the cellco will commit an additional USD2.07 billion to triple its LTE base station network, and by March 2015 it is confident of having 35,000 4G base stations and coverage of 70% of the population. By that date it hopes to have signed up 15 million LTE users.