Japanese operators KDDI and SoftBank have reached an agreement for the shared use of their base station assets to jointly promote the rapid deployment of 5G networks in Japan’s rural areas, the carriers said in a statement.
Since 5G networks in Japan use the 28 GHz and 3.7 GHz high-frequency bands, many base stations need to be installed nationwide, and this requires long-term construction and large investment commitments, both telcos said, adding that this is why they need to promote mutual infrastructure sharing to efficiently construct a network of 5G base stations.
To accelerate the deployment of 5G networks in rural areas, KDDI and SoftBank said they will explore options with a view to establishing a joint construction management company that would facilitate construction designs and manage construction work to efficiently utilize the base station assets of both companies.
As a first step, KDDI and SoftBank will establish a preparatory office, and starting this fall, conduct joint trials in Asahikawa City in Hokkaido, Narita City in Chiba Prefecture and Fukuyama City in Hiroshima Prefecture. The trials will be used to verify the effects of 5G network quality improvements and shortened construction periods in rural areas across Japan.
“KDDI and SoftBank will rapidly construct 5G networks that serve all industries. Both companies will do this with the aim of raising Japan’s international competitiveness by contributing to its industrial development, regional revitalization and national resilience,” the telcos said.
In April, Japan’s government approved plans by the country’s four mobile carriers to build 5G wireless networks with investment set to reach JPY 1.6 trillion ($14.4 billion) over the next five years.
Applications submitted by NTT DoCoMo, KDDI, SoftBank and e-commerce giant Rakuten were approved by the communications ministry after determining that the companies’ applications met the conditions of the allocation of 5G spectrum.
NTT DoCoMo is planning the largest spend, with a goal to invest at least JPY 795 billion in the deployment of 5G networks during the next five years. KDDI announced investments of JPY 466 billion, while SoftBank and Rakuten are targeting investments of JPY 206 billion and JPY 194 billion respectively.
Japan’s four carriers reportedly aim to launch commercial 5G services next year.
The conditions for the allocation of 5G spectrum included commitments to offer services in every prefecture of the nation within two years, and set up 5G base stations in at least half the country within five years.
NTT DoCoMo and KDDI are each targeting to cover over 90% of the country’s population with 5G by the end of the five-year period, while SoftBank is targeting 64% coverage and Rakuten is aiming for 56%.
NTT DoCoMo previously said it plans to launch pre-commercial 5G services in September 2019. The company also said that customers will be able to experience 5G services during the Rugby World Cup this year.
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