Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Softbank announces interim higher speed 3G network "Ultraspeed"

Unlike Docomo, Softbank has no definite LTE plans, so in the interim, they recently announced a combined HSPA+ DC-HSDPA network called "Ultraspeed" that will launch from February 2011 and utilize the new 1.5 GHz band. With a 42 Mbps maximum downlink, Softbank is billing it as Japan's fastest network. This is basically standard 3G technology, so upgrading the network will proceed much faster than Docomo's LTE expansion plans, beginning with nearly twice the population coverage as Docomo (12% versus Docomo's 7%), and reaching approximately 60% by June 2011. For comparison, Docomo expects to only have 40% of the population covered with LTE by March 2013.

Sounds pretty good. Until you take a closer look.

So far, no one can figure out what the uplink speed will be because Softbank is keeping that quiet. Softbank has also not said exactly what the coverage will be for the DC-HSDPA network, which is theoretically capable of 42 Mbps, compared to the HSPA+ with a maximum of 21 Mbps. Though, to be fair, 21 Mbps would be smokin' compared to current speeds.

The speed comparison is a huge red herring.

In the real world, we never get anywhere near the theoretical maximum speeds, whether it is 3G, ADSL, fiber or whatnot. There will be no significant difference between 42 and 37.5 Mbps. Trust me. The 42 Mbps is coming from a "dual channel" setup, i.e., DC. Softbank is doubling channel bandwidth from 5 MHz to 10 MHz to double throughput. Docomo is achieving 37.5 Mbps with a single 5 MHz channel for standard outdoor coverage and is doubling up indoors to achieve 75 Mbps. Not to mention that LTE is 3x as efficient as DC-HSDPA, meaning better network utilization. A clogged up network, no matter what it's theoretical maximum is, will be slow.

Ultraspeed products

Just as with Xi, the initial products are all business oriented - no handsets. The 007Z is a mobile wifi router, and the 004Z is memory stick with a microSD slot for USG storage, each by ZTE. The 005HW is a USB stick by Huawei.

Use of existing handsets

No existing Softbank handsets support 1500 MHz. A whole slew of handsets was just announced, but it doesn't seem they will support 1500 MHz. The Qualcomm MSM8255 chipset in the HTC Desire HD, coming to softbank, supports HSPA+ (but not DC-HSDPA), but it doesn't seem that this handset is compatible with 1500 MHz.


  1. This looks very much like the new data service announced by e-mobile starting from November 19.
    This is also supposed to be a DC-HSPA.
    I heard from Softbank that their current data plan in fact uses e-mobile's network (at least in Tokyo and major cities). I don't know if they are really planning to set up their own DC-HSPA network.

  2. Yeah, they are setting up their own, since they are a network owner - it'd be inconceivable that they'd use someone else's...

    Thanks for the link with Emobile. Looks like Emobile actually proposed DC-HSDPA as a standard, and that Emobile originally announced plans to use it and Softbank followed suite because it just requires adding on to existing base stations.


  3. Interesting. I wish e-mobile were as creative in their smartphone offering.
    I have a Touch Diamond with a two-year contract ending in December and was really disappointed by their announcement that they will release the HTC Aria.