SAN FRANCISCO-AirTouch Communications Inc. and GTE Mobilnet Inc. announced plans to participate in a new company formed to provide cellular service in Hokkaido, Japan. Both companies will own a 4.5 percent interest in Digital TU-KA Hokkaido Co. Ltd., based in Sapporo City.
The company will build a 1.5 GHz digital cellular system that will use the Japanese Digital Cellular standard. Service should begin in 1997.
“Japan is one of the world’s fastest growing cellular markets, but penetration rates are only about one-third as high as in the United States,” said Arun Sarin, president and chief executive officer of AirTouch International. Penetration is at about 3.5 percent in Japan, compared with about 10 percent in the United States.
GTE said service initially will be available in Sapporo City and other major cities in the Hokkaido region, then expand to surrounding communities to eventually cover all of Hokkaido. AirTouch said there are about six million people in the region.
Digital TU-KA Hokkaido includes partners from two groups with cellular ventures in Japan, the TU-KA Phone Group and the Digital Phone Group. The Hokkaido endeavor is the seventh Japanese partnership for both AirTouch and GTE.
Some of the 41 shareholders in the Digital TU-KA Hokkaido venture are Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. and Japan Telecom Ltd., each with 23 percent. Hitachi Ltd., Hokkaido Railway Co., Nippon Steel Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp. each hold about 5 percent.