New Japanese operator plans WiMax network

A new Japanese telecommunications carrier plans to launch a national wireless network by the end of 2006 that will offer voice and data services using the emerging WiMax network technology combined with city-based WLANs (wireless LANs), a company backing the carrier said on Wednesday.

The WiMax network will consist of about 200,000 access points each with a range of up to 3 kilometres. They will offer connection speeds of around 75Mbps and cover 80 per cent of Japan’s population by the end of 2007, according to Kaori Ogawa, a spokeswoman for Heisei Denden Co. Ltd., a Tokyo-based communications carrier.

The service will be run by Japan Wireless Corp., a company set up last September by Heisei Denden and Dream Technologies Corp., a software developer in Tokyo. Japan Wireless expects to receive regulatory approval for the service later this year, Ogawa said.

WiMax is part of the IEEE 802.16 standard. It is a wide-area networking technology that delivers broadband access over significantly greater distances than the IEEE 802.11 WLAN technology, commonly known as Wi-Fi.

WiMax networks are being tested and prepared for use in several countries including the U.S., the U.K., New Zealand and France.

The Japanese network will use both Wi-Fi and WiMax access points. Both of the networking standards will be supplemented with a technology called multiple input multiple output (MIMO) to boost their speed and range, Ogawa said.

In cities, the Wi-Fi service will offer speeds of between 50Mbps and 108Mbps, and the access points will have a range of up to 600 metres. Outside the cities, the network will use WiMax access points strung along Heisei Denden’s 33,000 kilometre fibre-optic network.

The WiMax network is likely to be based on the 802.16a mobile version of WiMax, Ogawa said. The 802.16a specification is designed to provide access for users when they are on the move. It is currently being developed by Intel Corp. and Nokia Corp., who have said they expect the standard to be finalized next year.

Access to the network will be via PC cards that slot into notebooks, Ogawa said.

The company will start a limited Wi-Fi service in several major cities in November. The name for the service and pricing have yet to be decided, but data communications are likely to be offered for a set monthly fee, she said.

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