Japan's third largest mobile operator, Softbank, will launch a data network that will deliver downloads of up to 110 Mbps in November 2011, they also announced a host of new smartphones capable of utilising the high download speeds.
CEO Masayoshi Son said his company will aim provide coverage for all major Japanese cities by April 2013, in order to compete with the high-speed offerings from rivals like DoCoMo and KDDI.
The new network, called "Softbank 4G," will initially be available via portable modems. These create small wireless networks for computers and other devices.
The new network is compatible with a high-speed Chinese standard that media reports say Apple's products will support in the future. Softbank is currently Japan's only operator with the iPhone.
With its new handset lineup, Softbank is particularly focusing on attracting women users.
New offerings include Disney-branded smartphones.
They also include a sparkly handset from Kyocera with puffy buttons. It allows users to decorate pictures, a popular pastime for Japanese teenagers.
A smartphone from Sharp includes a slide-out keypad in addition to the touchscreen, for those used to typing on traditional phones.
Softbank will also offer shopping apps from companies such as Gilt, an online fashion retailer.
There is also a networked security device that alerts users' phones remotely when a door or window is opened.
The Lumix Phone from Panasonic has a digital camera design. It allows users to easily tweet photos or attach them to emails. It also sorts images using facial recognition.
For IDG News Service, this is Jay Alabaster in Tokyo.
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Softbank is the exclusive seller of the iPhone in Japan, and new versions of the phone could support the blazing download speeds.
, with the company aiming to have the country's main populations centers covered by April 2013. It will be compatible with a growing Chinese standard that media reports say Apple will support, meaning future iPhones on Softbank's network could have access to the blazing download speeds.
"As cloud computing comes into practice, one thing we cannot fail to achieve is high speeds for mobile Internet, " said Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son, speaking to reporters and industry insiders at an event in central Tokyo. "This network will have among the fastest speeds available, even globally."
The network, which offers uploads at up to 15 Mbps, will be based on a format called AXGP, an advanced version of an older Japanese standard, Personal Handy-phone System (PHS). Softbank said it is "highly compatible" with TD-LTE, a Chinese standard also know as as LTE TDD, which is growing in popularity throughout Asia. Media reports have said Apple is committed to supporting the standard in future devices.
The carrier also announced a broad range of new smartphones, many with sparkly buttons and features such as decorative emails and image touch-up features that are aimed at attracting customers, especially women, that are still using traditional mobile phones. These include new handsets from Japanese makers such as Sharp, Panasonic and Kyocera, as well as Dell and Huawei, which will go on sale this year or in early 2012.
"Smartphones have already ceased to be an item just for men who like new technologies," said Son, who at one point posed on stage with several young, phone-wielding female models.
Softbank operates the smallest of Japan's three main mobile carriers in terms of contracts, but has been outpacing its rivals in adding new users under Son, who secured exclusive rights to Apple's iPhone and iPad on its network and has implemented aggressive pricing plans and advertising.
The carrier's monopoly on Apple products will end next year when No. 2 carrier KDDI also begins carrying the iPhone, according to numerous local media reports. Asked repeatedly about the upcoming release of the new iPhone and the end of Softbank's Apple monopoly, the normally loquacious Son repeatedly declined to comment.