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LTE spectrum fragmentation can be easily resolved, says NTT DoCoMo exec

The head of the companys R&D strategy division says using existing 3G bands for LTE and more multiband devices is the cure

Mobile operators should use their current frequency bands for 4G services to avoid spectrum fragmentation, a problem that has plagued Apple and other manufactures as they launch their devices globally, an executive at NTT DoCoMo said Tuesday.

Seizo Onoe, head of DoCoMo's R&D strategy division, said the solution is to use existing 3G bands for next-generation services like LTE (Long Term Evolution), a specification for high-speed networks that is emerging as the global standard. He also called on component makers to put more effort into multiband support.

"We don't need to cry over LTE spectrum fragmentation," he said, speaking at the Computex exhibition in Taiwan.

The problem of LTE and other services running on different frequencies in different regions has been a major headache for device makers like Apple. The company stopped promoting its new iPad as compatible with 4G networks in Australia after a local consumer commission filed a complaint with the federal court in March.

Australian operator Telstra runs its 4G service in the 1800 megahertz (MHz) band, while Apple's newest iPad can connect only on 700 MHz and 2100MHz LTE bands, which are used in the U.S. and Canada.

Onoe said DoCoMo, which launched its LTE service in December 2010, now has nearly 3 million subscribers and aims for coverage of 98 percent of Japan's population by March 2015.

He said the company is also actively preparing to implement LTE Advanced, an enhanced version of LTE, and is testing the technology in some parts of Japan. He said DoCoMo has achieved rates of 1 Gbp for downloads and 200 Mbp on uploads, though real-world implementations will be slower.

DoCoMo is leaning toward using an implementation that combines macro towers and small cells to provide service, an approach that provides broad reach and maintains local connectivity, Onoe said.

The company runs Japan's largest mobile operator, with just under half of the country's mobile subscribers. The company has the best coverage and strongest network, but has lost users in recent years to smaller rivals such as Softbank, the first domestic carrier to offer the iPhone.

Computex, one of Asia's largest consumer electronics and component shows, runs this week in Taipei.


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