SoftBank to launch Japan’s first commercial 5G network by end-March


Japanese wireless carrier SoftBank announced it expects to launch its 5G services on March 27, becoming the first of the country’s three major mobile carriers to release details of its next-generation telecommunications service.

NTT Docomo and KDDI Corp. are also expected to soon unveil plans of their own commercial 5G services.

Newcomer Rakuten Mobile plans to launch mobile services in Japan next month, with a 5G offering expected to be launched later this year, according to previous reports.

SoftBank, the third-largest mobile carrier by number of subscribers in Japan said it will initially provide 5G services in certain areas of Tokyo, Chiba, Osaka, Ishikawa, Aichi, Hiroshima, and Fukuoka prefectures

The telco also confirmed it aims to install over 10,000 5G base stations by the end of March 2023.

The Japanese telco said it plans to charge an additional JPY 1,000 ($9) per month for the 5G services, but will offer a campaign for existing and new customers to be exempt for two years through the end of August.

SoftBank  also said that it will offer four compatible smartphones: Sharp Aquos R5G and ZTE Axon 10 Pro 5G will be available from launch; while the LG V60 ThinQ 5G and Oppo Reno3 5G will be added in April and July respectively.

In May last year, SoftBank had selected Nordic vendors Ericsson and Nokia for the deployment of its network in Japan.

At that time, Ericsson said it was selected by SoftBank as a primary 5G vendor for the deployment of a multi-band 5G network in Japan.

The Swedish vendor said this decision followed a series of successful joint proof-of-concept activities that began in 2015. Collaboration between the two companies included 5G testing of multiple bands, including 28 GHz and 4.5 GHz.

Under the terms of the agreement, Ericsson provided SoftBank with radio access network equipment, including products from the Ericsson Radio System portfolio, to enable SoftBank to launch 5G services on their 3.9-4.0 GHz and 29.1-29.5 GHz bands for 5G New Radio (NR).

SoftBank also selected Nokia as a vendor, for its 5G AirScale solution.

Nokia said at the time that the deployment wold allow the telco to provide 5G enhanced Mobile BroadBand (eMBB) service, with 5G Ultra Reliable Low Latency Connectivity (URLLC) and enhanced Machine Type Communication (eMTC).

Last April, Japan’s government approved plans by the country’s four mobile carriers to build 5G wireless networks with investment set to reach JPY 1.6 trillion ($14.4 billion) over the next five years.

Applications submitted by NTT DoCoMo, KDDI, SoftBank and e-commerce giant Rakuten were approved by the communications ministry after determining that the companies’ applications met the conditions of the allocation of 5G spectrum.

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