Working Timeline of 5G in Japan

Akihabara News (Tokyo) — The following is a working timeline of 5G in Japan which Akihabara News intends to expand and update in the weeks and months ahead.


NTT Docomo initiates 5G research and development, undertaking extensive indoor and outdoor field tests.


October: NTT Docomo presents its 5G vision at CEATEC Japan 2013, promising that it will be able to offer “1000 times the capacity and 100 times the speed as the current network” by 2020.


May: NTT Docomo announces six mobile vendors it will be working with for testing of 5G technologies across a range of frequencies: Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Fujitsu, NEC, Nokia, and Samsung.


March: NTT Docomo announces that it will conduct a three-way 5G technical collaboration with China Mobile Communications Corporation and KT Corporation. NTT Docomo also reveals that its joint 5G outdoor trials with Ericsson have achieved a maximum data transmission speed of over 4.5Gbps using the high-frequency 15GHz spectrum band, and that they aim to establish a commercial 5G network before the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games begin in July 2020. Huawei and Mitsubishi Electric are added to the list of NTT Docomo 5G vendors.

July: NTT Docomo announces that it entered into 5G collaborations with five additional vendors—Intel, Keysight Technologies, Panasonic, Qualcomm Technologies, and Rohde & Schwarz.

October: NTT Docomo conducts first real-world tests of its 5G network technology, in partnership with Nokia, at the Roppongi Hills complex in Tokyo.


February: NTT Docomo, KT Corporation, SK Telecom, and Verizon agree to form a new global initiative called the 5G Open Trial Specification Alliance, planning to develop an aligned 5G trial specification that would serve as a common, extendable platform for different 5G trial activity around the world. Also, NTT Docomo and Denso agree to undertake joint research and development of vehicle control systems that use 5G in order to realize advanced driver assistance and automated driving systems. Additionally, NTT Docomo announces that MediaTek has been added to its list of 5G vendors.

May: NTT Docomo announces that it has achieved the world’s first wireless real-time transmission of 8K video deploying radio access technology for 5G mobile communications systems, in a trial jointly conducted with Nokia.

November: NTT Docomo and DeNA announce agreement to trial a 5G mobile-communications system that is expected to enhance the safety of self-driving vehicles through remote monitoring and passenger assistance.

December: NTT Docomo announces that it concluded a memorandum of understanding with the China Academy of Information and Communication Technology to jointly investigate the standardization of 5G technologies and available frequency bands.


February: KDDI and Samsung announce successful completion of Japan’s first ever 5G multi-cell handover test using the 28GHz spectrum to be conducted in an outdoor environment on Tokyo’s metropolitan expressway. KDDI reveals that it is targeting 2020 as the start of its commercial 5G services.

March: SoftBank is granted an experimental license to conduct tests on the 28GHz frequency band, a candidate for 5G in Japan, aiming launch 5G commercial services around 2020. Indoor and outdoor 5G trials begin in Tokyo Waterfront City.

May: SoftBank, Qualcomm Technologies, and Sprint Corporation agree to jointly develop technologies for 5G.

September: KDDI and Samsung announce the completion of 5G tests at Everland Speedway in South Korea at speeds over 190km per hour, the fastest in the world.

October: KDDI and Samsung conduct successful 5G trials on a moving train in Saitama Prefecture. The tests include 8K video being downloaded by the 5G router on-board, and 4K video filmed from a camera atop the train being uploaded.

November: NTT Docomo announces that it has conducted the world’s first successful outdoor trial of 5G mobile technologies for ultra-reliable low-latency communications using a 4.5GHz system, developed in collaboration with Huawei. Meanwhile, SoftBank and Honda begin joint research on the use of 5G technologies for the automotive industry.


January: NTT Docomo signs an agreement with Nokia to supply 5G baseband products, aiming for the rollout of commercial 5G services by 2020. Meanwhile, Rakuten and Tech Mahindra announce the opening of the Rakuten Cloud Innovation Laboratory, focusing on 5G technologies.

April: KDDI partners with independent venture capital firm Global Brain Corporation to establish the KDDI Open Innovation Fund 3, a fund to invest in venture firms related to 5G technologies.

May: KDDI begins business trials with partner companies on developing new business operations using virtual characters and other Extended Reality (xR) technologies.

June: KDDI announces a successful live 4K video 5G transmission test using a drone. Rakuten begins joint 5G trials in partnership with Nokia.

October: NEC forms an alliance with Samsung on the development of 5G technologies, aiming at both the European and Asia-Pacific markets.

December: The Japanese government announces that Huawei and ZTE will be excluded from public procurement regarding 5G technologies due to alleged security risks.


February: KDDI and partners conduct Japan’s first 5G multi-vehicle autonomous driving experiment on public roads.

April: Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications allocates spectrum to operators NTT Docomo, KDDI, SoftBank, and Rakuten in advance of a planned commercial 5G launch in 2020. The operators commit to building out 5G networks in every prefecture by 2022.

May: US government restricts technology sales to Huawei Technologies, due to alleged security risks. SoftBank responds by selecting Nokia and Ericsson as its 5G vendors, excluding its longtime supplier Huawei.

June: Rakuten and NEC Corporation partner to build a 5G wireless communications network across Japan.

July: KDDI and SoftBank announce an agreement on the mutual use of their base station assets to promote the rapid buildout of 5G networks in Japanese rural areas. Meanwhile, Rakuten CEO Hiroshi Mikitani says his firm will roll out its 5G services in Japan in June 2020.

September: KDDI partners with Samsung, Ericsson, and Nokia for the mobile operator’s 5G network rollout in Japan, planned for early 2020. Meanwhile, NTT Docomo announces that it has joined the Omron and Nokia Solutions & Networks Oy with the aim of further advancing the use of 5G technology in the manufacturing sector. NTT Docomo also achieves the world’s first 5G mobile communications between base stations and a high-speed bullet train in collaboration with Central Japan Railway Company.

November: KDDI announces that it will partner with Facebook on developing 5G technologies, with a focus on creating high-definition Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) images. Meanwhile, SoftBank and Subaru Corporation start joint research on using 5G mobile communication systems for the realization of an automated driving society.

December: Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications begins accepting applications for licenses to operate local 5G services.


January: NTT Docomo announces it will launch a video-streaming service based on 5G high-speed wireless technology beginning in March. NTT Docomo also releases a white paper on 6G, which its aims to launch on a commercial basis by 2030.

February: Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications issues to Fujitsu the country’s first preliminary license to build a local 5G communications network. Japan’s legislature begins considering a bill that would provide state-backed low-interest rate loans and tax incentives for Japanese companies to develop secure 5G mobile networks. Sharp Corporation unveils its first 5G smartphone model.

March: NTT Docomo, KDDI, and SoftBank launch their commercial 5G services in rapid succession. NTT Docomo is launched in 29 prefectures; KDDI is launched in 15 prefectures; and SoftBank launched in 7 prefectures. NTT Docomo promised to install at least one network base station in each of the 47 prefectures by the end of June. Meanwhile, Rakuten Mobile selects Nokia for optical transport for its first 5G cloud-native mobile network.

April: KDDI and SoftBank jointly establish 5G Japan, a 50-50 joint venture to build out 5G networks in rural parts of Japan.

May: Rakuten announces that Covid-19 will cause a three-month delay in the rollout of its 5G services from June until September.

June: NTT Corporation and NEC Corporation form an alliance on the development of 5G technologies, which includes NTT taking a 5% stake in NEC. They reportedly intend to develop 5G base station technologies to challenge the dominance of foreign suppliers. Sumitomo Corporation and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government partner on the installation and testing of 5G-capable smart poles.

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