updated 10/13/2005 8:13:02 AM ET 2005-10-13T12:13:02

Japan is readying a new network for cell phones that will allow people to connect to the Internet to talk over the phone more cheaply and transmit data more quickly.

The government plans to introduce mobile Voice over Internet telephony by 2007, officials said Thursday.

The mobile service under consideration at the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications will allow people to use Voice-over-Internet Protocol, or VoIP, phone service, on cell phones — similar to what's now available on fixed lines.

The mobile VoIP services now more common allow people merely to connect their cell phones to the Net at "hot spots" using Wi-Fi wireless access.

Nations around the world are working on Internet telephony on mobile phones, and the Japanese government effort highlights this nation's efforts to keep up with global telecom trends.

The proposal for the network, which will also transmit large amounts of data such as streaming video on cell phones, is being discussed in a ministry panel of experts and telecommunications officials and is set to reach a decision in December, said ministry official Junko Koizumi.

Although details, including the kind of mobile VoIP technology, are not yet decided, several carriers are expected to apply for licenses to offer mobile VoIP services, which are likely to be cheaper than talking on cell phones today, she said.

The Internet Protocol mobile phones are expected to relay information at up to 15 megabits per second — more than a thousand times faster than the fastest third-generation cell phones now available in Japan at 384 kilobits per second.

Such speeds may slow down if too many people use the service in the same area, and voice quality may go down, Koizumi said.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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