NTT DoCoMo to chase 1Gbps downlinks with LTE-Advanced

The company will build a test network near Tokyo

NTT DoCoMo will begin testing a new data communications technology in the next few months that promises speeds many times faster than the LTE service recently launched by it and carriers such as Verizon.

The new technology, called LTE Advanced, has already achieved downlink speeds of around 1Gbps and uplinks of around 200Mbps in lab tests. The next step is to take it outdoors and test it in the real world.

A license allowing installation of equipment for the tests was recently received by NTT DoCoMo from Japan's government, the carrier said Monday.

It enables the carrier to build a test network near Tokyo, in the cities of Yokosuka and Sagamihara in Kanagawa prefecture. Once the test equipment is installed and checked by the telecoms regulator, NTT DoCoMo will be issued a full license allowing trials to begin.

NTT DoCoMo expects to receive the full license sometime in March, said Makiko Furuta, a spokeswoman for the Tokyo-based company.

Tests of the new network begin hot-on-the-heels of the launch of NTT DoCoMo's LTE network. The network was launched in December and promises download speeds of up to 37.5Mbps and upload speeds up to 12.5Mbps.

It's initially available in parts of Tokyo and two other major cities. NTT DoCoMo plans to spend ¥100 billion (US$1.2 billion) this year to more than double coverage to around 20 percent of Japan's population.

Tests of initial service proved disappointing, with the network frequently failing to deliver speeds anywhere close to the theoretical maximums advertised by the carrier. At the end of January it had attracted 5,000 users, according to industry figures released Monday.

LTE Advanced builds on LTE's technical base and allows channels to be tied together to increase throughput. NTT DoCoMo has already submitted preliminary information about the format to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) for consideration as a 4G mobile standard (the ITU considers 4G systems as capable of 1Gbps or faster).

Martyn Williams covers Japan and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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