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Sony to launch wireless data network 1 July

Business-oriented service to cover six Japanese cities

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Sony is putting the final touches to its Bit-Drive business-oriented broadband communications service ahead of its 1 July launch. According to a Nikkei report, Bit-Drive is based on a wireless network capable of shifting data around at a rate of 1.5Mbps - not quite up to Ethernet standards, perhaps, but rather better than current modem or ISDN offerings. Based in six Japanese cities, the service will provide SMEs with permanent and semi-permanent connections to the Net, a host of ASP-type services, and the gateway server hardware. Sony is aiming 1000 subscribers by March 2001, rising to 100,000 within five years of the launch. In fact, it could have many more. Sony's interest in broadband networking derives from its belief that almost all home and business services will be delivered across the Net in the very near future, for which high-speed comms infrastructure is essential. And Sony naturally wants to control as many elements in that network as it can. The PlayStation 2 is primarily about controlling the flow of music, movies and other entertainment media into the home. That's the focus, but if it can control the home and office, then so much the better. In Japan, it's building the network on its own, though it will also work with third-parties. Indeed, earlier this week, Sony announced an $8 million investment in US wireless networking start-up ArrayComm. Sony's moves here are not dissimilar to investments its new arch-rival, Microsoft, has made in cable TV companies around the world, including the purchase of a 60 per cent stake in Japanese cable operator Titus Communications. This is in addition to cable TV network partnership, SpeedNet, it has already struck with Softbank and the Tokyo Electronic Power Company. Bit-Drive itself will provide five service packages:

  • Broad Access, a Y150,000 ($1420) a month permanent Net connection.
  • Broad Access Plus, which adds server rental for a total of Y180,000 ($1703) per month.
  • Dot-Com Support Pack, which adds Web hosting and site building services to the Broad Access Plus package for a total of Y250,000 ($2366) per month.
  • City Access, a Y70,000 ($663) per month local area telecoms service.
  • Community Access, which is essentially a line shared by a number of households, priced at Y5000 ($47) a month.
  • The service will initially be made available in Tokyo, Yokohama, Nagoya, Osaka, Kyoto and Fukuoka, but Sony said it expects to broaden the network across the whole of Japan by the end of the year. ®

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