The service was launched as an upgrade to KDDI's existing second-generation (2G) CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) network in April this year and offers users a maximum data transmission speed of 144kbps, higher than the 64kbps previously available. KDDI offers service under the Au brand name.
The CDMA2000 service is KDDI's answer to the W-CDMA (Wideband CDMA) service launched by NTT DoCoMo in the final quarter of last year. DoCoMo's service has seen substantially lower interest from consumers: it had attracted 127,000 subscribers by the end of July.
Despite offering top speeds of 384kbps, NTT DoCoMo's new service has suffered because of an initially limited service area, high handset costs and the lack of a killer application to drive handset sales. In contrast, KDDI's handsets can use the 2G network in areas where no CDMA2000 signal is available and cost roughly the same as previous models.
The company has already made the faster service standard on new models and plans to be selling only CDMA2000 handsets by the end of the year, according to Tadashi Onodera, president of KDDI. In a move towards this goal, KDDI announced four new mobile phones that will go on sale from September.
The flagship model of the new range is the A5301T from Toshiba. The handset supports KDDI's Movie Mail service, which lets users send 5, 10 or 15 second video clips to other mobiles or personal computers, and also comes with a built-in 310,000-pixel CCD (charge coupled device) image pick up, 2.1 inch (5.25-centimetre) 260,000-colour polysilicon TFT liquid crystal display panel and a slot for SD memory cards.
The other models include the A3015A from Sanyo, which couples a camera with a Global Positioning System receiver; the A1014ST, another model with a camera from a subsidiary of Sanyo, and the A1013K from Kyocera, billed as being easy to use.