TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan's telecom ministry allocated Wednesday mobile phone frequency bands for super-fast 5G services to three major mobile carriers and e-commerce giant Rakuten Inc., ahead of an expected full-scale launch next year.
After reviewing operational plans by NTT Docomo Inc., KDDI Corp., SoftBank Corp. and Rakuten, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications approved the allocation of 5G frequencies following a recommendation from an advisory council.
After conducting trials later this year, KDDI and SoftBank plan to start a commercial rollout next March and NTT Docomo later that spring, planning for the 5G technology to enable users to send and receive data some 100 times faster than the current 4G networks allow.
New mobile market entrant Rakuten plans to begin 4G services in October and 5G in June next year, rushing to construct a network across the country capable of delivering both 4G and 5G telecommunications.
The consolidated sum of investment in 5G infrastructure by the four companies will reach 1.6 trillion yen ($14 billion) over the next five years, aiming to make next-generation services prevail nationwide, the ministry said.
"KDDI will take advantage of 5G networks and provide excitement to customers, promoting support for their digital transformation," said the company's President Makoto Takahashi. KDDI and NTT Docomo are planning to trial 5G in streaming services for the Rugby World Cup to be held in Japan from September.
Overseas, competition has been heating up for 5G services, touted as enabling smartphone users to download a two-hour film in just three seconds, with U.S. and South Korean mobile carriers both claiming to be the world's first to have launched commercial 5G operations.
Verizon Communications Inc. of the United States started offering the services in parts of Chicago and Minneapolis on April 3, while South Korea's three major mobile carriers also enabled it for some celebrities the same day.
Not only benefiting smartphone users, the super-fast mobile networks are expected to help deliver autonomous driving and other technological breakthroughs. For example, medical equipment could be remotely controlled by an off-site doctor due to the high-speed data transmission capabilities and lower latency experienced by the new technology.
The internet of things, a concept in which a wide range of devices are connected to the internet via wireless networks, may also be boosted by the 5G technology that enables an enormous number of simultaneous data transmissions.
Competition among nations and telecom firms is growing fiercely, with each looking to take the lead on developing and utilizing 5G networks.
Regarding equipment, the three major Japanese mobile phone carriers and Rakuten have said they will refrain from using products made by Chinese tech giant Huawei Technologies Co., a leader in the field of the next-generation wireless services, and those of another Chinese telecommunications firm, ZTE Corp.
The Japanese companies have taken the position due to a decision by the government in December to effectively exclude the two Chinese firms from public procurement, reflecting U.S. concerns their products may facilitate spying and lead to potential disruption to communication networks.