3G is born! (But only in Japan)

It's alive

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True to its word, Japanese telco NTT DoCoMo will launch the world's first 3G network on 1 October. Called FOMA - Freedom of Mobile Multimedia Access - the service will give subscribers based in Tokyo 64Kbps real-time video, a maximum 384Kbps downlink, and maximum 64Kbps uplink and of course the ability to make phone calls.

Tariffs are unannounced at the moment with the company only giving vague "basic principles" of what it will charge, like "suitable for the age of multimedia" and "facilitate smooth migration from existing phones". There will be special introductory offers to get people on the service from October to March next year, including Y1,000 of free calls to encourage people to try the new data services.

Which is great until you realise that equates to £5.80. Oh well. Billing is apparently going to be based more on Europe's approach, which presumably means a flat-fee with some free calls and the rest paid for depending on time connected (rather than amount of data downloaded) - but we can't be sure as yet.

There are three handsets that work with the service although worryingly DoCoMo calls them Standard-Type, Visual-Type and Data-Card-Type - which appears to suggest you can't get voice, video and data all on the one phone.

In fact, it was problems with the handsets that caused DoCoMo to put back the launch of the 3G services from May to October. We'll have to wait and see whether the service offers what was expected or is a fudge.

One thing's for sure: after a sudden rush of hype and adrenaline earlier in the year to get out the first 3G network, excitement has slowed once companies grasped the new complexities that this technology involves.

For more info on the service go here. ®

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