Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Softbank deploys 900 MHz "Platinum Band" for 3G

Softbank Mobile announced today that their recently awarded 900 MHz band will not be used for "4G" LTE but instead for 3G. All of the phones announced, including the gimmicky Geiger counter, will support 900 MHz. Consumers will have access to the 900 MHz band from July 25, 2012.

This is good in the short term. If you check out the iPhone tech specs, you'll see it already supports UMTS-900, so come 7/25, when SBM switches it on, I imagine all of you iPhone users will immediately see the benefit of the increased penetration of this relatively low-frequency band.

In the long term, there is no future in 3G. Docomo is building out a world-standard FDD-LTE network (Xi). SBM is converting over Wilcom's XGP to a TD-LTE network called Softbank 4G. But as potential buyers of the "new" iPad + 4G (renamed to "cellular") came to find out, SBM's LTE isn't compatible.

It could be argued that the decision to immediately apply this band to the now outdated 3G standard is short sighted, but I guess SBM doesn't really have too much of a choice. They need to improve network penetration and throughput, and they needed to do it yesterday.


  1. Well, it looks like you changed the name of the blog just before you accomplished your mention. Now softbank is not going to suck anymore. Congratulations!

  2. I think there is a long term future for 3G, and that future is HSPA+, which SBM will be installing in the 900MHz band. The reason is not that people will need to have this on a daily basis, but it will need to exist for 2 reasons: 1) For LTE radios to fall back on in case they cannot get an LTE signal (much like how European GSM phones can fall back to 2G when they cannot get a 3G signal), and 2) To enable global roaming. Having a quad-band or penta-band 3G radio as the fallback option would mean that when going abroad, you would still be able to roam and get relatively fast data rates, rather than being cut off totally.
    LTE roaming is nigh-on impossible with current technology (depending on how much of world you want to cover, you would need at least 12 and maybe up to 18 bands), and I don't think anyone will accept going back to the dark days of not being able to data-roam when travelling abroad.