Japanese carrier NTT DoCoMo will launch commercial LTE service in December of next year, skipping the interim upgrade to HSPA+ which many operators have decided to do and delay the launch of LTE to when the devices are ready and when there is some real feedback from operators that have trialed and deployed LTE.
NTT DoCoMo President and CEO Ryuji Yamada made the announcement yesterday at the GSMA Mobile Asia Congress. Yamada said that it would be most efficient to go straight to LTE. DoCoMo have invested heavily in LTE to make sure that it works for them and HSPA+ would just be a distraction especially as the amount of data traffic on its network has been doubling every year according to Yamada. HSPA+ in that case will only be a very short term solution.
The LTE network is expected to considerably boost the operator's data revenues, which should comprise more than half its overall sales by 2011. DoCoMo will spend $3.4 billion on the deployment, initiating the buildout in high-traffic areas, where it will overlay its existing 3G network with LTE. The operator will first offer its LTE service on data cards and LTE-capable handsets are slated for 2011.
DoCoMo plans to turn off its 2G network in 2012, so needs to migrate all of its customers onto 3G and LTE before then. This again is a different strategy to other operatrors that see 2G as being around for at least another 10 years.