updated 07:10 am EDT, Wed June 4, 2008
SoftBank Gets 3G iPhone
SoftBank today said it has an agreement carry the iPhone, making it the first provider in Japan to offer the device. The company follows in step with past carrier announcements and doesn't reveal launch information, saying only that the Apple phone will be available "later this year." SoftBank's announcement confirms the imminent announcement of a 3G-capable iPhone, as all Japanese networks use 3G technology (WCDMA and faster) exclusively for calling as well as data.
SoftBank doesn't reveal that its deal is exclusive, but its early win for the iPhone comes as a relative surprise to the industry. NTT DoCoMo remains Japan's largest single carrier and has been a part of ongoing talks with Apple to offer the iPhone in the region. KDDI is also said to have been negotiating with Apple to carry the handset with its au service.
Reports have circulated that NTT DoCoMo may withhold its announcement of iPhone support until it can make a joint announcement with KTF, one of Korea's primary cellular providers and a fellow user of 3G for virtually all components of its network.
The use of the iPhone name is also significant. Aside from revenue sharing concerns, Japanese carriers have often had tighter control over the branding of cellphones and often follow a strict naming system of their own designs rather than allowing companies' own exact choices of device names.