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Decades-old wireless tech alive and kicking

Willcom's PHS phones are already kings of the data landscape in Japan.

It's not often that a wireless technology from the 1980s makes the headlines, but that's exactly what's happening to the hardware behind Japan's first-ever mobile-phone network.

The PHS system, which was developed in 1989, is the key to a bid [Subscription link] by Japanese carrier Willcom to beat rivals using WiMAX to one of two licences to operate next-generation data services alongside 3.5G phone networks by 2010.

First-generation comeback

The company currently provides mobile data communications to almost half of its 4.64 million customers through an extensive network of what might be termed 1G ground stations.

In bidding for the government-issued licence to operate in the 2.5GHz band it plans to upgrade these to speeds of up to 20Mbit/s, which could result in connections that are generally faster than those proposed by the WiMax camp that includes NTT DoCoMo, KDDI and Softbank.

Whatever the outcome of the official deliberations due by year's end, it's hard not to have a soft spot for the throwback battling against giants backed by many billions more yen.