Tokyo Wireless Internet Service Seen Delayed

TOKYO (03/29/2000) - Technical problems are expected to delay the launch of a Tokyo wireless Internet service backed by Softbank Corp., Microsoft Corp. and Tokyo Electric Power Co., the latter partner said today.

The three companies formed a joint venture, SpeedNet Inc., last September to launch a wireless Internet service in Tokyo this summer.

"There are some technical problems with things such as noise and (Speednet) are discussing it," said Akiko Tanaka, a spokeswoman for Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco). "It may be difficult to start the business from this summer but it will start and more discussions are planned after Golden Week." The annual Golden Week holiday occupies the first week of May.

However SpeedNet said it was still aiming to launch in the summer.

"Our initial plans haven't changed," said spokesman Masato Muto. He declined to comment on Tepco's remarks, first made by its president at a press conference today, saying he had not heard them first hand and so did not know exactly what was said.

Tepco, the monopoly-electric utility in Tokyo and the surrounding areas, is a key member of the venture because it owns a city-wide fiber-optic network that runs alongside its power lines. SpeedNet plans to use that network to link its network center to base stations that will enable the last-mile to be bypassed into the consumer's home.

When the three companies announced their plans for SpeedNet last summer, they held out the promise of low-cost, full-time Internet access for consumers in Tokyo. [See "Microsoft, Softbank Lay Out 'Net Plan for Japan," Aug. 11, 1999].

Long hampered by high connection charges and a lack of deregulation in the local telecommunications market, Japan's Internet users have been increasingly looking for cheap ways to connect. Last year saw the launch of cable Internet and ADSL services although they are still only available in a limited area.

Tepco, in Tokyo, can be contacted at +81-3-3501-8111 or online at http://www.tepco.co.jp/. SpeedNet can be contacted at +81-3-5641-3010 or http://www.speednet.co.jp/.

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