I recently saw in the news that Sprint has run into some legal issues trying to pull the plug on its WiMAX network. That brought back memories to 2008 when I was working with WiMAX technology. I was working on a project to build a modem for XGPHS, or Next-Generation Personal Handyfone System. XGPHS was based on the WiMAX specification, but with improvements in performance for mobile access. This was all before Mobile WiMAX started to sprout up. The last thing I remember about XGPHS is that when the world economy crashed in 2008/2009, Willcom, the company leading the push to the XGPHS technology, was running into financial problems. What ever happened to XGPHS?

I had forgotten as well, but in 2007, NTT pulled the plug on PHS service and Wilcom was the last player in the game. Apparently in 2010, Willcom filed for bankruptcy, and then Willcom was acquired by Softbank. In 2014 it was sold to e-Mobile and renamed Y!Mobile. e-Mobile, however, was a data-only 3G provider originally.  Y!Mobile was then acquired by Softbank in 2015. I saw some Japanese language information stating that PHS may have its plug pulled in November 2022. However, that still leaves six years for another firm to try to acquire the technology and keep the system going.  Or maybe not, perhaps it will remain a technology used internally. Many hospitals and large factories use PHS internally for communicating with staff–usually managers.

As for XGPHS?  It turns out that XGPHS is still alive…sort-of.  Extended Global Platform (XGP) Forum is the group now representing XGPHS.  After a cursory look, XGP Forum is focusing on TD-LTE, and has its roots in the XGPHS that I once knew. @nifty offers a wireless service that uses the AXGP and LTE.

I was curious about some other mobile technology that was once big news in Japan when I lived there.  i-Mode was an Internet service offered by NTT DoCoMo for the FOMA service (UMTS network) customers. It was a proprietary network based on WAP-like technology and was hugely popular while I was in Japan. At the end of February 2015, NTT DoCoMo pulled the plug on the network. Smartphones killed the juggernaut of Japan’s mobile industry.

And WiMAX? Unlike in the US, it looks like there are still options for WiMAX in Japan.  UQ WiMAX appears to still be available, and @nifty is offering a WiMAX service as well. I am glad to see there is still some wireless technology diversity in Japan. I cannot say that much about where I live in the USA.


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