X
Tech

DoCoMo isolates 3G users to meet deadline

Leading Japanese mobile phone company NTT DoCoMo will have to use non-standard technology if it is to meet its May deadline for 3G roll-outs.
Written by Ben King, Contributor

Leading Japanese mobile phone company NTT DoCoMo will have to use non-standard technology if it is to meet its May deadline for 3G roll-outs.

The rising star on the global mobile telecoms market has vowed to keep to its spring deadline, but it will sacrifice roaming capabilities with other mobile services to do so. The Japanese company, which developed the successful 'i-mode' mobile data service, will have to roll out a non-standard version of 3G, which will not be compatible with other 3G networks without expensive upgrading. The news will add to doubts concerning the schedule for the first European roll out of 3G networks, which is due to begin in Spain by the end of August. A DoCoMo spokesman confirmed that the company was using FOMA, its own proprietary version of the W-CDMA standard, the main standard for 3G networks outside America. Global roaming would not become a reality until the end of 2002, he said. Arjan Singh, senior research analyst at the Business Research Group, said: "DoCoMo uses their own flavour of W-CDMA. They aren't going to be able to offer roaming at all unless someone brings out compatible handsets." Japanese mobile phone handsets, which use the PDC system, have never had true roaming capabilities across the world, which uses different standards such as GSM. Users either have to have dual-mode handsets, or pick up a different handset when they arrive in a new country. Rivals J-Phone, in which Vodafone and BT have stakes, recently announced a seven-month delay to its 3G launch date, blaming a hold-up in the approval of 3G standards. The company will now launch 3G in July 2002. Last week, J-Phone director Philip Marnick told silicon.com: "Roaming is one of the most important features of 3G for us. That's one of the main reasons for the delay." Roaming is more important for J-Phone, with two global networks as shareholders, than for DoCoMo, which is a leader in the domestic market and has fewer alliances abroad. The news comes a few days after the latest round of W-CDMA standards were approved by the 3GPP, the body responsible for approving mobile communications standards.
Editorial standards