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4G is a Formula 1 Race Car on a Traffic-Jammed Highway

Willcom is developing in Japan a project aimed at solving the problem of 4G broadband and shortening the distance between its cellular cells and users. Corporate VP, Mr. Yoshioki Chika, believes that the coverage provided this way is the best, though there are others who doubt the technology due to its high cost.

12/10/09     Globes, Gad Peretz


One of the most interesting projects of the worldwide mobile market has recently started to evolve in Japan. Willcom’s project is starting to offer Broadband Wireless service throughout Japan in a model that is technologically and financially unique.

It is not surprising that such a project should be developed particularly in Japan, the world’s most cellular advanced country. “Willcom’s idea comes to solve the Broadband problem for mobile, and to find a suitable solution for the world of Data”, says Yoshioki Chika, Corporate VP and one of the founders and architects of the idea.

In the past 15 years, Willcom has built 162 thousand base stations around Japan, and provides coverage to almost 100% of the population. For comparison, Japan’s biggest cellular company, NTT DoCoMo, has 60 thousand base stations.

Chika states that this is the only way to provide real broadband for mobile- to crowd the cellular cells and thus minimize the distance to the user. The presentation shown today during a seminar arranged by Harel-Hertz that included industry executives, presented a network of miniature cellular cells that covers all major population centers in Japan, and allows 100 Mb  download speed.

Eran Harel, Managing Director of Harel Hertz Investment House (HIH), notes that Willcom is preceding all other mobile providers in Japan, who are planning to launch networks next year, requiring time to reach fully deployment.

Is 4th Generation mobile- whether LTE or WiMax- supposed to solve the problem and bring broadband to the cellular phone?

Chika: “That’s exactly the point. 4G will not solve the problem. The enormous demand for mobile broadband has grown in such a way that 4G networks cannot handle the demand, and they will clog quickly. It’s simply physics”.

So how can you explain that providers throughout Japan and the world are going LTE?

“The industry cannot change direction or point-of-view. There is too much money and investments in 4G, and there are many parties of interest that the truth cannot be publicly said about them, although everyone knows it. It’s the ‘Inconvenient Truth’- everybody has their eyes shut.

“4G is is a Formula 1 racing car. Only this is about millions of such cars driving the wide, but same highway, bombarding it. The highway cannot contain all these high speed cars. This is what happens with 4G, and this is what we are trying to solve, with the technology we own and have property rights over.

“The problem is the narrow band of frequencies that the mobile providers have, and the difficulties to bring the base cells closer to the users. Our accomplishment is that we succeeded to build 162K sites all over Japan, on roofs distanced at 500 meters one from another, with every site connected with optical fiber.

“Today, 3.75G networks provide effective speed of up to 1 Mb, maybe less, because you have to take into account how the site is connected to the network, the number of users, mobile or stationed, and the amount of frequencies the provider has. All these factors bring the effective speed of LTE per user to be much less than expected.”  

According to Chika, the actual effective speed is several Mega Bytes, and at optimal conditions the speed might be a bit faster, but there is no chance that a user will reach a speed of 100 Mb, as is the general public opinion.

In the past Willcom was a mobile operator that used the industry typical Japanese standard, though it did not really succeed, and therefore looked for a way to gain an actual edge over the competition.

The realization of the inevitable need to shorten the distance between the miniature sites and the end users was a beginning. The second stage was building a business model by which the service would not be by standard technology, but rather company technology. This means that every customer receives a designated modem, which the company connects to the end equipment, and only through this the customer is able to consume Data.  


What about the end equipment?

“Our focus is on DATA. We are developing solutions for voice, but this is not the goal right now. It will take some time.”

One of the difficult problems for the Service providers is the transfer of data from the antennas to the Backhaul, which creates a real bottleneck. How do you solve this?

“Every building that has one of our base station installed on it, gets an optic fiber from the infrastructure company- in Japan, from NTT. NTT reaches everywhere and the price it sells us the fiber is government regulated”.

But if there is already Fiber-to-the Home, why are you necessary?

“Because we want to be a single provider for both mobile and station. Meaning, that the home internet be also provided by us.”

One of the chief executives in the Israeli Mobile Industry says Willcom’s idea is technologically correct, though it is doubtful if it has economical feasibility.

“To maintain so many cellular sites all over Japan and to bring optical fiber- involves absurd expenses. Technologies that are protected by good IP rights, but are economically problematic. You can see what is happing with niche technologies like CDMA, a technology that lost the competition with the GSM standard. The benefits of size simply make the difference”, he says.​

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