Japan allocates 700-MHz spectrum

Dianne Northfield/Tolaga Research
KDDI is yet to launch its LTE service and has revised target commercialization dates a number of times. The operator is expected to launch service by December 2012 using a combination of 800-MHz and 1.5-GHz spectrum where it holds 30 MHz and 20 MHz respectively in these bands. KDDI is also planning to use 2100-MHz as part of its LTE launch. In its March 2012 year end results reporting KDDI outlined an aggressive rollout plan to reach 96% LTE population coverage by March 2013. This coverage plan will necessarily demand an expedited launch plan before the end of the year.
Softbank launched its 4G offering in February 2012 using 2500-MHz TDD spectrum acquired from PHS operator Willcom. In July 2012 the operator reported an LTE base station count of 7,000 and the acquisition of 100,000 subscribers. As noted, the operator was awarded 30 MHz of spectrum in the 900-MHz band earlier this year and it will use this spectrum to augment its LTE plans. Softbank has outlined a 900MHz base station rollout plan of 16,000 by March 2013, increasing to 41,000 by March 2016 when population coverage will reach 99%. The operator has announced plans to launch 900-MHz FDD LTE in Q3 2012.

As reflected in Tolaga’s Market Explorer, Japan’s diverse 4G deployments along with spectrum combinations across no less than seven bands (Exhibit 1), provide fertile ground for LTE market watchers. The aggressive population coverage plans detailed by Japan’s operators are facilitated by the fact that all operators now hold spectrum in lower and upper bands to support both network coverage and capacity requirements.