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NTT DoCoMo offers tablets on LTE network

Japan's largest mobile carrier will sell Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and a new waterproof Fujitsu tablet

NTT DoCoMo said Thursday it will offer two tablets on its high-speed LTE network, along with streaming video from Hulu's new Japan service.

The country's largest mobile operator said it will sell the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and a new, waterproof tablet from Fujitsu called the Arrows Tab from October. Both will run on its heavily promoted "Xi" network, pronounced "Crossy," which is advertised as having download speeds of up to 75 Mbps, though it has been significantly lower in practice.

DoCoMo launched its LTE (long term evolution) offering late last year, the first company to do so in Japan, and these will be the first tablets on the network. The company hopes the devices will boost income from data services, while allowing it to keep more control over content than with traditional PCs.

"We want to increasingly enrich our tablet offerings. Up until now we have sold tablets as part of our DoCoMo smartphone lineup, but from now on we will offer them in a separate category," said DoCoMo president and CEO Ryuji Yamada, speaking to reporters at a press event in Tokyo.

Apple's smash-hit iPhone and iPad are still sold exclusively by rival Softbank, Japan's third-largest carrier.

DoCoMo announced several new services around the tablets running on its high-speed LTE network. The centerpiece is streaming content from Hulu, which officially launched in Japan last week, its first offering outside of the U.S.

Hulu CEO Jason Kilar made a brief appearance at the Tokyo event, emphasizing the service's wide selection of foreign movies and TV shows. Much of the content includes Japanese subtitles for local audiences.

"In the future, Hulu Japan's content offerings will also include Japanese-produced content, and content from across the Asian region," he said.

The tablets announced by DoCoMo include the Samsung Galaxy Tab, which has been the subject of global patent lawsuits from Apple, and the newly announced Arrows from Fujitsu.

The Fujitsu tablet appears to be targeted at everyday consumers, with a waterproof body and basic control through hand gestures in front of its camera, for when fingers are dirty or otherwise occupied. The device was on display functioning as a small TV in a living room setting.

DoCoMo is offering LTE services on the tablets on two plans that will cost consumers between around 4,000 and 6,000 yen (US$50 and $80) in monthly data fees depending on usage, with additional fees when data use exceeds 7G per month. Hulu and other services will cost extra.

In the U.S., Verizon began offering the Samsung Galaxy Tab on its own LTE network earlier this year.

LTE is new packet data transmission technology that's based on IP, the same basic protocol as the Internet. It's seen as a replacement for current 3G networks and promises faster data transfers.

DoCoMo is in the middle of a three-year, 305 billion yen ($4 billion) investment plan in the technology. The carrier has applied, along with its rivals, for extra bandwidth from the government due to be assigned next year. The bandwidth has been freed up as older mobile services and analog television broadcasts were retired.

The company is also already testing a new technology that has achieved 1 Gbps downloads and 200 Mbps uploads in lab tests, called LTE Advanced.


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