NTT Communications Corp. plans to launch a commercial wireless LAN service in Tokyo from the middle of May, the company said Thursday.

When it launches, the network will consist of around 200 hotspots at cafes, hotels, convenience stores and other locations around the capital. NTT-C plans to extend the network to around 1,000 hotspots by the end of the year. The company is using the brand name Hotspot for the service and says it has registered the word as a service mark in Japan, although it won’t stop competing carriers using it as a generic term to refer to their access point coverage areas.

The system will support both IEEE 802.11b, which operates in the 2.4GHz band with a maximum data throughput of 11M bps (bits per second), and IEEE 802.11a, which is a more recent technology that has a maximum data throughput of 54M bps and operates in the 5.2GHz band. Despite those theoretical top speeds, NTT-C is promising a best-effort service at 11M bps in the case of 802.11b, and 36M bps in the case of 802.11a. The backbone for the network will consist of fiber access lines, ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) and FWA (fixed wireless access).

Targeted at PDA (personal digital assistant) and notebook computer users, the location of the initial hotspots includes the cafe areas of several well-known hotels, such as the Hilton Tokyo, Hotel Okura and the Prince Hotel chain. Some retail chains will also have hotspots including Kohikan coffee shops, Mos Burger fast-food restaurants, Kinko’s Japan copy shops, Maruzen book shops, Ministop convenience stores and other establishments.

NTT-C said it will charge a flat monthly free of