Japan leads in 3G, but not for long

01 January 2010 |


Japan is at the vanguard of 3G technology development, network build and commercialisation, according to Telegeography.

NTT Docomo launched the world’s first commercial 3G network in late 2001, and while service providers in 115 other countries have since followed suit, Japan still lays claim to the largest 3G subscriber base in the world. With almost 92 million UMTS users at the end of March 2009, Japan has 50% more 3G subscribers than the United States, and three times as many as South Korea, according to Telegeography.

Over the next five years all this will change. While Japan’s progress to date has been impressive, 3G users account for 85% of the total wireless subscriber base, which means the technology only has a limited pool of late adopters to migrate. Combine that with a sub 4% annual growth rate across all wireless subscribers, and the market is close to saturation, according to Telegeography.

With a substantially larger population, the US will overtake Japan for 3G subscribers in 2011, according to the research firm.