Japan's second-largest telecoms operator, KDDI Corp, said yesterday it will launch a third-generation mobile phone service nationwide in April, hoping to win seven million subscribers by March 2003.
"We will cover major cities in Japan and by the end of this year we will cover almost 90 percent of the country," KDDI president Tadashi Onodera told a news conference.
The 3G service, called CDMA 2000 1X, from April 1 will allow users to receive high-speed Internet access, send and receive e-mails and see video on their handsets. They will also be able to take photographs with their handsets and see video images of callers also using 3G phones. It will compete directly with a similar service by leading mobile phone operator NTT DoCoMo Inc, which launched the world's first commercial 3G handsets last October.
CDMA 2000 1X is already used in South Korea, and China may introduce the system, KDDI said. "With South Korea, China and Japan using the same 1X system, we can expect there will be borderless 3G services in the future," said Toshio Maki, general manager of service and product planning department at KDDI's mobile network "au."
The cheaper price of KDDI's mobile phones should make is a stiff competitor for NTT DoCoMo and rival J-Phone, said Hironobu Sawake, senior telecommunications analyst at JP Morgan.
"The price of the handset is a merit," he said. "It is not too expensive, I think it will retail at ... just under ?20,000 so it should have success as it is cheaper," he said.
In contrast DoCoMo's 3G phones cost between ?29,000 and ?50,000.
KDDI introduced video downloads in December as well as GPS (global positioning system) -- a service NTT DoCoMo and J-Phone do not offer, Sawake said.
Shares in KDDI on the Nikkei closed up ?20,000 or 5.9 percent at 357,000 yesterday.