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SoftBank, KDDI to team up on 5G wireless network installation

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Major mobile phone service operators SoftBank Corp. and KDDI Corp. said Wednesday they will team up on wireless networks for their 5G services in a bid to cut costs and speed up installation.

The two companies will study how and where they can share equipment for the next-generation network services among other options, a SoftBank spokesman said, with Japanese mobile carriers preparing to begin trial services this fall ahead of the official launch of 5G business next year.

KDDI, Japan's second-largest mobile carrier by subscribers, plans to install more than 42,000 relay devices for the fifth-generation services and SoftBank, the country's No. 3 mobile operator, will deploy over 11,000 across Japan, according to their plans submitted to the communications ministry in April.

The next-generation services can send and receive data around 100 times faster than current 4G technology, but costs remain a major challenge as 5G networks require more relay spots as they employ short-length radio waves that cannot pass through buildings.

With the two carriers, Japan's top carrier NTT Docomo Inc. and Rakuten Inc. planning to enter the 5G market, the government will offer 208,000 traffic signals across the country as spots for the installation of necessary equipment.

SoftBank said in April it will jointly deploy airborne mobile phone base stations with Google LLC parent Alphabet Inc. for next-generation wireless services.

While NTT Docomo and Rakuten, which will enter the mobile phone market with its own network for the first time in October, are not participating in the joint study, SoftBank and KDDI would not exclude them if they are interested, the SoftBank spokesman said.

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