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Japan to set 5G network relay devices on traffic signals

This photo shows Samsung Galaxy S10+, exhibited during the Mobile World Congress, on Feb. 25, 2019 in Barcelona, Spain. (NurPhoto/Getty/Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The Cabinet on Friday approved a project to install wireless relay devices for 5G network services on traffic signals across the country.

Fifth-generation network technology requires more relay spots than the current 4G services as it uses short-length radio waves that cannot pass through buildings. However, there is a lack of suitable locations for new base stations as suitable locations already house equipment for existing services.

The Japanese government will, therefore, allow 208,000 traffic signals to be used as spots to set up the new 5G equipment, expecting to complete the network installation by the end of March 2026.

The new wireless service can send and receive data some 100 times faster than the current 4G network. Smartphone users, for example, will be able to download a two-hour film in just three seconds.

Four mobile phone service operators -- NTT Docomo Inc., KDDI Corp., SoftBank Corp. and e-commerce giant Rakuten Inc. -- are planning to launch 5G services in 2020 across the nation after the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications allocated frequency bands for the operations to them in April.

The government is promoting the next-generation service amid growing competition with other nations such as the United States and China, and is hoping to take the lead in developing and utilizing the 5G technology.

The superfast networks are also expected to help develop technology for driverless cars and achieve other technological breakthroughs such as allowing construction machinery and robots to be operated remotely.

The four mobile phone carriers have said they will not use equipment made by Chinese tech giant Huawei Technologies Co. a leader in the field of the next-generation wireless services, and another Chinse telecommunications company ZTE Corp.

The Japanese government decided in December to effectively exclude the two Chinese firms from public procurement following U.S. concerns over the companies' perceived close ties with the Chinese government.

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