NTT Docomo Logo-SMAY 13, 2014 • The dominant mobile phone carrier in Japan, NTT Docomo, Inc., is initiating technology trials to prepare for the introduction of 5G networks in 2020. Participating with NTT Docomo are Alcatel-Lucent S.A., Telefonaktiebolaget L. M. Ericsson, Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd., NEC Corp., Nokia Oyj and Samsung Group. The test will investigate a wide range of 5G technologies to exploit frequency bands above 6GHz and realize very high system capacity per unit area. The expectation for 5G networks are that they will support ultra-high-speed data transmissions at more than 10Gbps, which is 1,000-fold the capacity of existing LTE networks. At the same time 5G is expected to provide for the connectivity of massive numbers of devices to support the ever-expanding market of machine-to-machine services. Indoor trials will start this year at NTT Docomo’s R&D Center in Yokosuka. Outdoor field trials will take place in 2015. The company will share its findings in the run up to 5G standards negotiations scheduled for 2016.

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Impact: We have no doubt that 5G technology will deliver a stunning increase in mobile network transmission capability. In Asian markets such as Japan and Korea, consumers will even have the opportunity to take advantage of those increases. Depending on how many major carriers are still left standing in North America after mergers and acquisitions take their toll during the next six years, consumers here may or may not realize the full benefits of their new 5G smartphones after acquiring them. Government regulation also plays a major part, with a lot of Federal agency activity happening at the moment that portends giving carriers and broadband providers greater license to charge more for access to faster data transmission. Thinking optimistically, however, if U.S. consumers do get access to 5G speeds at a reasonable price then it is conceivable that fast broadband access via mobile-connected home routers could be the competitive jolt that encourages cable companies to start upgrading their networks to come closer to the fast broadband the rest of the developed world enjoys. That would be a major boon for the online games industry – finally giving publishers the ability to distribute full AAA game clients in a timely manner to North American consumers. But 5G also has another effect – it provides a built-in mechanism to entice consumers to buy into another cycle of smartphones purchases. Mobile devices are already fairly robust computing devices that will be fine for playing games and accessing social networks for years to come. But existing smartphones are stuck with whatever generation of mobile networks they came with. So network technology cycles are a primary driver of new hardware sales. Most major markets are only now getting wide 4G LTE coverage, the year 2020 seems like a far way off, and many might not want to think about adjusting to another network upgrade transition, but it is coming regardless and could have some beneficial side effects for the games industry and consumers.