Destination US: iMode and 3G

DQW Bureau
New Update

NTT's DoCoMo is the company that created `iMode,' the

`always on,' higher-speed pocket Internet service that has taken Japan by storm,

and that has propelled DoCoMo to become the fastest-growing ISP in the world!


It is also now the third-largest company in the world

(behind Microsoft and GE) worth $ 366 billion, and it's expected, according to a

March 12 Nua editorial, to `shortly surpass AOL as the world's biggest ISP.' All

of this because they brought the Internet to the pockets of Japan in an easy and

aesthetic and fun to use way. (Does this remind you of what kindled the

Web--when NCSA's Mosaic browser first brought those same attributes to the wired


Well, iMode is now getting ready to leap from Japanese

shores, and other new, even faster pocket data technologies are also getting

ready to appear. The result, I think, is that the way we think about access to

our data will never be the same!

`Early next year' is when 3G (Third Generation mobile

phone service) will begin showing up on US shores by a collaboration between NTT

DoCoMo and AT&T Wireless, according to Kiyoyuki Tsujimura in the March 14

Washington Post. `iMode' will begin its US implementation in Seattle.


"Cellphones in the United States and Europe are

still like 13-inch black-and-white TV sets," said, showing his

folding i-mode phone. "There's a huge gap in technology. People see these

color displays and are stunned."

Indeed, with iMode's anticipated 3G implementation

scheduled to go live in Japan this May, `video, audio, and other heavy-duty

transmissions' are headed toward our pockets. Interestingly (and somewhat

unexpectedly), other US companies also appear poised to leap into 3G--the March

16 reports that Sprint PCS `plans to be the first to launch 3G services

in the US, with a limited offering at the end of

this year...' The March 20 goes on to describe the rest of Sprint's

four-phase 3G implementation: "In early 2003, Sprint PCS will move to the

second stage in its 3G transition and offer data speeds of up to 307 KBPS. By

late 2003, data transmission speeds will reach up to 2.4 MBPS, and in early

2004, transmission speeds for voice and data will hit between 3 MBPS and 5


Verizon, as well, plans to get into the 3G game sooner

than many had expected; they have just let a $ 5 billion contract to Lucent for

a planned coast-to-coast 3G deployment, beginning this year. Their system will

use an extension to current CDMA technology, with a name that just rolls off the

tongue --`CDMA2000*3G1XRTT'. Data transmission is expected to be ten times

faster than today, or around 192 kilobits/second.


By the way, if you're just a little confused as to

exactly what `3G' actually is, don't feel alone. It's confusing because `3G' is

often used as an umbrella-term for high speed wireless data--it doesn't

explicitly refer to one of the many competing standards such as W-CDMA,

CDMA2000, and Edge. If you'd like to delve deeper into the world of 3G, check

out ZDNet-UK's `3G primmer.'

The end result though, once the standards battles are

settled and the massive implementation is complete, will be a significant change

to how and when and where we expect to be able to access a world of multimedia

data. And it will also morph the things in our pockets in new and fascinating

directions. Well, we'll have to wait and see if these wireless carriers can meet

these optimistic projections. But considering that Strategy Analytics expects

1.7 billion people, or 26 percent of the people on this planet to have a cell

phone by 2006, high-speed wireless access, by whatever name and by whichever

standard, is not a trend that any of us wants to ignore!

This is going to change a lot of rules...

Jeffrey Harrow

Senior Consulting Engineer (Technology and Corporate Development Group), Compaq

Note: This is an article from the `Rapidly

Changing Face of Computing', a free weekly multimedia technology journal written

by Jeffrey Harrow. More discussions around the innovations and trends of

contemporary computing and the technologies that drive them are available at

The writer's opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Compaq. The

RCFoC is copyright 2000, Compaq.