WW-136 -- DoCoMo voice quality -- "Moshi Moshi ... Can you hear me?"

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J@pan Inc presents the Wireless Watch Newsletter:

W I R E L E S S W A T C H

Commentary on Japan's Wireless World
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Wireless Watch Newsletter
Issue No. 136
Tuesday, August 24, 2004
TOKYO

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CONTENTS

@@ Viewpoint: DoCoMo voice quality -- "Moshi Moshi ... Can you hear me?"

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@@ Viewpoint: DoCoMo voice quality -- "Moshi Moshi ... Can you hear me?"

Many people living outside of Japan are duly impressed by services
introduced by DoCoMo -- especially on the mobile Internet. The big
money maker for DoCoMo, however, is their second-generation voice
network, which still serves 89 percent of DoCoMo subscribers.

Unlike in Europe, where GSM (Global System for Mobile Communication)
has been deployed as second-generation network technology, the Japanese
introduced their own technology in 1991 called PDC (Personal Digital
Cellular).

PDC is not compatible with GSM, and foreign visitors are often
disappointed to discover that they can't use their GSM phone in Japan.

But the deeper frustration for foreign visitors using a PDC phone in
Japan is the terrible audio quality -- and the high number of phone
calls dropped by the PDC network. Having business conversations from
your office over PDC is not advisable without first installing an
amplifier.

GSM is far superior to the PDC technology used in DoCoMo's networks.

The PDC network in Japan's larger cities is overcrowded, causing a
loss in capacity. The reasons for this are fairly simple. PDC
operates by splitting each frequency channel into several time
slots, allowing callers to use the same channel. Under normal
circumstances, three individuals can use the same frequency channel.

But when traffic levels are high, PDC uses half the data rate for
speech. The standard rate is 9.6 kbps for GSM and PDC, but the half
rates used by PDC encode speech at only 5.6 kbps. Six calls can then
be supported by each channel, making PDC more efficient than GSM --
but causing a significant reduction in audio quality.

Even KDDI's second-generation cmda network offers superior audio
quality.

Instead of adding capacity to its existing PDC network, DoCoMo
introduced third-generation FOMA. We were expecting that voice would
be the initial killer-application on FOMA, because of its improved
voice quality. But limited 3G network coverage has not resulted in
massive voice improvement. At least not yet.

The FOMA network offers a different voice application that is gaining
popularity among younger Japanese: the ability to order tickets for
popular events that sell out fast. Soon after ticket sales commence,
2G networks become overloaded, making it impossible to get through.
Less crowded FOMA networks allow for quick access to those prized
sales agents.

-- Arjen van Blokland

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STAFF
Written by Arjen van Blokland; Edited by Roland Kelts
(editors@japaninc.com)

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