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3.9G next-generation cell phone services to begin next year
[December 08, 2009]

3.9G next-generation cell phone services to begin next year


TOKYO, Dec 05, 2009 (The Yomiuri Shimbun - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- The world of cell phones is about to change, again, with the start of 3.9G next-generation services next year that will allow mobile phones to transfer data at near fiber-optic speed.

These souped-up transmission speeds are expected to spur new uses for cell phones, such as users being able to access via handsets huge amounts of data and software from outside servers.

At a technology expo in Chiba in early October, KDDI Corp. had a booth at which two people played a car racing game against each other to demonstrate the potential of future cell phone handsets.


One of the gamers' controllers was connected to a computer server with a fiber-optic cable, and the other through a next-generation cell phone connection. Both played with no hiccups in their gameplay.

The data transmission speed of the cell phone-using gamer was not in the range of a few dozen megabits per second found in current models, but juiced up to the same level as fiber optics--more than 100 megabits per second.

The transmission lag between handset and server also was reduced from about several dozen milliseconds to less than five milliseconds, making any delay in data processing unnoticeable.

The high-speed transmission is made possible with a new telecommunications system called Long Term Evolution (LTE), which expands the range of frequencies for data transmission up to 10 times wider than used with current cell phones.

This eliminates most congestion in data transmission signals. Also, the number of antennae inside handsets is increased from one to as many as four, allowing for more data to be transmitted at one time.

The system also changes how data transmission is allocated. Current transmissions by different cell phone users are allocated to specific frequency ranges or specific times, but the LTE system combines the two methods. KDDI plans to start the new service in December 2012.

"If you think of data as being pieces of cargo, conventional transmissions treat the cargo as if it's all loaded on a truck going down a narrow road," a KDDI official said. "Because it is one truck on a single lane, any other trucks are trapped behind it. The next-generation system is more like numerous motor bikes each carrying small packages traveling down a wider road. It can efficiently deal with minute-by-minute changes to the cargo load." The LTE system also is expected to be useful in other fields, such as for the transmission of high-definition motion pictures.

But according to Shunichi Kita, a senior consultant at Nomura Research Institute, cloud computing will be the greatest beneficiary of the new system.

In cloud computing, software and data are stored on a server connected to the Internet, and users download what they need when they need it. Kita said cloud computing via cell phones is set to explode in popularity.

A spokesperson for SoftBank Mobile Corp. said, "Cell phones that can use software on the Net that is designed [originally] for personal computers will be popular." NTT Docomo Inc.'s navigation system that uses photos taken by cell phone cameras is a typical example of cloud computing.

At the exhibition in Chiba, Docomo gave a demonstration in which information from a global positioning system and electronic compass inside a cell phone handset were sent to a server, which then showed end users how to reach the destination and also told them about restaurants nearby.

In the latter half of next year, Docomo plans to release telecommunications cards and USB memory devices with the next-generation cell phone transmission functions to enable higher-speed PC telecommunications.

If the plans become reality, businesspersons will be able to do office-related work wherever cell phone reception can be obtained.

If this cell phone telecommunications function is installed in a video camera, a user could store motion picture data while shooting or edit it on the spot.

Companies in North America and Europe also are preparing to introduce next-generation cell phones using the LTE system. Some economists predict that with the advent of common base stations and antennae worldwide, manufacturing costs and telecommunication fees will fall.

Currently, cell phone technologies are divided into three categories--first generation, which is analogue; second generation, which is digital; and third generation for high-speed transmissions.

The 3.9 generation appellation implies it is a step behind a future fourth generation, but contains parts of 4G technologies, which are envisaged to have maximum data transmission speeds of one gigabit per second.

To see more of The Yomiuri Shimbun, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.yomiuri.co.jp and www.yomiuri.co.jp/index-e.htm Copyright (c) 2009, The Yomiuri Shimbun Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For reprints, email tmsreprints@permissionsgroup.com, call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.

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