Though Softbank seems to be making more headlines with their pro baseball team, the Hawks, than Internet and broadband ventures, the company is moving decidedly forward in its long-range plan to provide mobile W-CDMA phone service in the domestic market. On 30 May, the company received its hard-fought for license to test service in the 1.7-gigahertz band. This is not yet a license for full operation as the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications is still working on allocation policy for this and one other bandwidth.
According to Softbank, successful field tests of mobile telephony protocol HSDPA (High Speed Downlink Packet Access) tests were carried out over the 1.7 gigahertz band in April for the first time by Yahoo BB Mobile. It had received an initial license for these tests. This W-CDMA downlink packet-based data service is being touted as “3.5G”. Downlinks could be up to five times faster with this technology enabling high-speed downloads for games, music, images and files.
Softbank had been a major shareholder in Yahoo Japan but has sold off large blocks of shares to finance their broadband as well as other projects. Currently they hold 42 percent of Yahoo. At the end of April, Yahoo BB has close to 4.8 million ADSL lines installed, adding 26,000 new subscribers that month and 4.54 million BB phone lines. Group firm Japan Telecom was acquired by Softbank to further its telecom strategies; unfortunately for the home team neither the ADSL nor the fixed-phone-line businesses have proved to be moneymakers recently.
The company posted a loss of over 59 billion yen for the fiscal year that ended in March. Should Softbank receive a full license (not yet a certainty) the company will have to invest a vast amount of capital to run with the big dogs DoCoMo and KDDI. Press Release in Japanese