The Japanese cellular operator Softbank is set to launch its 4G wireless network this week, offering customers speeds of up to 76Mbps. The official launch date has been set for Friday 24 February, with the first 4G device unveiled as a portable Wi-Fi router which can support up to ten users simultaneously. IDG News reports that the new 4G service from Softbank will cost JPY5,505 (USD70) a month, or JPY3,880 for users that also have a smartphone or tablet contract. Download speeds will be limited to 128kbps for users that exceed 5GB of data use per month, although the limit can be extended for an additional fee.
Softbank has deployed a network based on AXGP technology, an upgrade from the Personal Handyphone System (PHS) which has proven popular in Japan. The operator says AXGP is compatible with another 4G technology, TD-LTE, which is expected to be deployed across a number of Asian countries, such as China and India. Chinese equipment vendor Huawei supplied the infrastructure for the new network. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, Softbank is Japan’s third-largest mobile operator, with almost 28 million subscribers and a 21.7% share of the market at the end of September 2011.