Last weekend, we brought the news that Japan is surprisingly close to doling out licences for 4G mobile-phone network operators, and today we see one reason why.

The market leader there, NTT DoCoMo, has announced that it has had enough of the old 2G standard and is ready to switch off those transmitters and move customers to either 3G or, presumably, 4G services.

Early problems

DoCoMo's 54 million subscribers are almost all (88 per cent) on the 3G FOMA service anyway, so it should have little trouble bumping the remainder off the 2G PDC network by shutdown in March 2012.

The company's W-CDMA 3G service began in late 2001 with a small selection of handsets that provided poor coverage and weak battery life. Nevertheless, DoCoMo and its rivals quickly moved on and 3G is now the norm in Japan.

In black ink

At the same time as the 2G announcementDoCoMo was, unlike many major technology firms, able to file an increased profit in its most recent financial results.