DoCoMo in Japan has launched the world’s first live 3G trial with 3300 Tokyo users, beating the Isle of Man to the punch.
The Japanese telco hopes to roll out a full service by October - several months behind schedule following software glitches and a lack of phones. Glitches are making life difficult for the trialists as well - software crashes mean users will have to switch the phone off and back on again to clear the hiccup, but these are only trial units the users are warned and this is to be expected.
The 3G service will be the first in the world based on the WCDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access) system, one of the IMT-2000 standards. The service will allow high-speed packet data communication at speeds up to 384Kbit/s.
Vodafone should be first off the blocks with its GPRS system, an extension of its existing GSM network, in July. However GPRS is plagued with speed issues and the promised 144Kbit/s will probably at best be closer to 20Kbit/s, still more than double today’s speeds.
Telecom’s CDMA network will also initially launch at a relatively slow speed but by the end of the year an upgrade should see users connecting at close to 150Kbit/s.
The advantage of both 2.5G and 3G networks is their “always on” connection. Much like DSL connections on the home user’s PC, users are connected to the network at all times and only pay for the traffic used.
DoCoMo is giving the phones to users for free, but they have to pay for the amount of data they send and receive. Three minutes of data transmission will cost between 100 and 150 yen (roughly $2.10 to $3.00). Billing arrangements at Telecom and Vodafone have yet to be made public.