By December this year, Tokyo-dwellers will be able to get multi-megabit broadband wherever they live or work in the city when a WiMax router goes on sale and other cities are tipped to follow suit.
Communications operator Yozan is rolling out 600 AS.MAX base stations from wireless broadband vendor Airspan, enough to provide WiMax connectivity across the central zone of Tokyo. Yozan customers will simply buy the corresponding AS.MAX customer device, a new product which the company claims is the first indoor WiMax equipment that users can install themselves.
Despite the ready availability of broadband in Tokyo, Yozan will sell the service as a cheap alternative for mobile people who do not want to be tied to contract for a fixed line. "It will be pitched much cheaper than DSL or fibre, for users who don't have a phone at home," said Paul Senior, vice-president of marketing at Airspan. "This is a whole new market for wireless broadband."
When these people move home or office, they will take the WiMax equipment with them and set up in their new location. It can be connected by wire to a PC, or alternatively customers can add Wi-Fi connectivity.
The service will support the WiMax IEEE 802.16-2004 specification, but the base stations delivering it can be upgraded to the mobile WiMax standard, IEEE 802.16e, said Senior: "Once there are chips for 802.16e, at the end of 2006, the base stations will just need a software upgrade."
The base stations will have multiple 10MHz channels, each of which can provide 30 Mbps peak rate, which will be shared by users within 500m of the base station. The frequency it will use is not disclosed: "It's a Japan-specific frequency band, and Yozan needs to complete negotiations to use it," said Senior.
A trial will begin in June, with the network being built from October, and commercial service launched in December, said Senior. "We are looking to repeat this with other partners in cities like New York or London," he added.