Japan’s DDI to push PHS toward megabit speeds

Japan’s largest Personal Handyphone System (PHS) operator plans to launch a new data service in February that will push the maximum throughput from the 128Kbps available now to around 1Mbps, it said Tuesday.

The new service will make use of up to eight PHS data channels to deliver a 256Kbps connection and then use software data compression to push the effective throughput to around 1Mbps, said Yoichiro Yatsurugi. He will take over as president of DDI Pocket Inc. on Feb. 2, the same date the company will change its name to Willcom Inc.

Like the carrier’s existing service that combines up to four 32Kbps PHS channels, the new service will be a best-effort service. The actual speed will depend both on the number of free channels available from each base station and also the extent to which data being sent and received can be compressed.

In a demonstration in Tokyo on Tuesday, the service was delivering an average speed of 710Kbps, according to measurements returned by a broadband speed-test Web site. The site recorded the maximum data throughput at 811Kbps and the minimum at 507Kbps.

PHS is a microcell-based wireless communications system that was developed in Japan and commercialized in the latter half of the 1990s. The service was initially welcomed by users for its low price. However, it began to lose subscribers when prices at conventional cell phone carriers began to drop. From a high of around seven million subscribers in late 1998, there are now about four million PHS users in Japan.

About three-quarters of these users are on DDI Pocket’s network, which has been able to retain users in part because of a flat-rate data service.

The new service will cost