UQ: “We definitely need WiMAX 2 to improve capacity”

Fumio Watanabe, CTO at Japan's UQ Communications

In this interview with Fumio Watanabe, CTO at Japanese communications provider UQ Communications (UQC) and executive director of its parent KDDI, we hear how Japanese mobile operators are fast running out of network capacity, how KDDI is using all of its access networks to distribute its own loads, and what plans its subsidiary company UQC has to launch WiMAX 2 services.

How do you believe the Japanese mobile market has evolved in recent times?

There are two big issues from the viewpoint of our several businesses: one is traffic growth, and the second one is congestion with over-the-top businesses.

We are seeing a very rapid increase in heavy data traffic, due to the increase of smartphones. Japanese customers’ usage of data is several times higher than European customers, so it is quite a serious problem for all operators in Japan. Therefore each operator has to consider some solutions.

In the case of KDDI, we have a basic strategy of “Three Ms”: multi-networks, multi-services and multi-devices. The multi-network is an important concept: in order to resolve the lack of capacity on its 3G network, KDDI is now using a combination of the many access technologies it has, including Wi-Fi, WiMAX, and CATV/FTTH networks. KDDI is the only operator that can provide all of those access technologies in Japan.

What stage is UQ Communications at with its WiMAX deployment?

From the point of view of KDDI, WiMAX is quite an important infrastructure to handle the heavy traffic of its customers. KDDI is now providing many smartphones that have not only Wi-Fi embedded, but also WiMAX. I believe that this type of policy to be successful.

Another important initiative by KDDI on the infrastructure side is the preparation of Wi-Fi public access points: over the course of this year, KDDI is preparing 100,000 Wi-Fi public access points. Many of those new Wi-Fi access points will use WiMAX for backhaul purposes, meaning that we can quickly deploy Wi-Fi public access spots.

We do not have to wait for our fibre-optic network to be connected up to the Wi-Fi public access points. It is quite easy to deploy Wi-Fi public access points, if we use WiMAX for backhaul.

What plans do you have to introduce WiMAX 2?

UQ has already started to develop WiMAX 2 infrastructure: we will deploy our new base stations  end of this year, capable of both WiMAX and WiMAX 2.

Even though WiMAX has a huge capacity, and UQ has more than 20,000 base stations nationwide, according to my predictions UQ will face a shortage of capacity within its WiMAX base stations some time this year. We definitely need WiMAX 2 to improve capacity!

What is the likely lifespan of WiMAX 2 capacity?

That depends on the percentage of WiMAX 2 capable devices: if we have a lot of WiMAX 2 capable devices, it will improve total capacity. How quickly UQ distributes WiMAX 2 capable devices is the key parameter here.

UQ has a plan to launch new WiMAX 2 capable devices, such as routers even before WiMAX 2 launch: that means that this WiMAX router will be a WiMAX 2 one having higher performance after we switch on the WiMAX 2 infrastructure.

Mr. Watanabe is speaking at the Broadband IP&TV Asia 2012 event, taking place in Malaysia on 15th-16th May. For more information and to register, please visit

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