MS, Softbank plan wireless Web venture

Which will put them head-to-head with the mighty NTT in Japan...

The mysterious Microsoft wireless Web announcement that didn't happen a couple of weeks ago may be taking shape at last, with the imminent unveiling of what appears to be a pilot service in Japan. According to Japanese paper the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, the company will roll with a low-cost wireless service there in the middle of next year. The paper says the service, to be run in conjunction with Softbank and Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), will be announced on Wednesday, and will be run via wireless base stations installed on TEPCO's electricity network. That can then operate as an Energis-style backbone. There are a couple of intriguing aspects to the move. First of all, it seems that Softbank will be putting up most of the capital for a joint venture company, around about $1 billion. Second, the network will operate on a frequency that is currently unused in Japan, although it's not as yet clear which one this is. That suggests that Microsoft, rather than trying to go head-to-head with NTT DoCoMo in the 3G broadband cellular market, may intend to set up some kind of rival system. Broadband cellular will be out first in Japan, and DoCoMo intends to put out a Symbian-based wireless device next year. The rival Microsoft venture should therefore be going live in the same timeframe, although it's initially being targeted at only one of Japan's regions. ® Daily Net finance news from The Register

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