NTT DoCoMo moves up date to shut off 2G mobile

Japan's biggest wireless service provider plans to shut off its 2G mobile phone network in March 2011 because most of its customers will have moved on to 3G, the company CEO said Wednesday in Hong Kong.

NTT DoCoMo had previously said it would keep the 2G network running until December 2012.

Part of the reason for the move is to shut down a legacy system, but other reason is to move customers to better service offered by LTE (Long Term Evolution) next generation wireless broadband, said Ryuji Yamada, president and CEO of NTT DoCoMo, at the GSM Association's Mobile Asia Congress 2009.

"Most of our customers already use 3G," he added.

NTT DoCoMo plans to start offering LTE data cards in December 2010 and then handsets in 2011, he said, with coverage to be provided first in high-traffic areas. The promise of LTE is more than just high capacity and high speed, he said, it's also the low latency period. There is not much delay between the network and the handset, meaning that downloads are nearly instantaneous.

"We would like to achieve the handset-network collaboration, what is known as 'cloud computing,' in the future," he said. LTE will enable NTT DoCoMo to offer a number of services from its network that it does not provide now, including storage space for user data, he said.

Tarek Robbiati, CEO of Hong Kong mobile service provider CSL Ltd., praised NTT DoCoMo's decision to shut off its 2G network.

"That's a very brave move," he said, adding that getting rid of old legacy systems is important for LTE.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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