NTT Docomo, the largest mobile operator in Japan, announced plans to open a 5G lab in Guam in early 2019, which will be the operator’s first overseas verification facility.

5G Open Lab Guam will be open to more than 1,900 partners participating in the operator’s 5G Open Partner Programme, which provides global businesses and organisations with the latest information, test environments and opportunities for partner workshops covering the technology, the company said.

Participants will be able to connect devices and services free-of-charge to the lab’s 5G equipment.

Once the test environment is extended to outdoor locations (during or after the middle of 2019), Docomo will also assist partners with their outdoor verifications.

The operator said the new lab will enable partners to run tests of new services designed to meet US technical and regulatory conditions. By offering a 5G test environment set up under US conditions, it said the lab “will facilitate prompt, flexible and accurate verifications of equipment, systems and even advanced technologies for applications such as drones and autonomous vehicles”.

Domoco operates similar facilities in Tokyo and Osaka, and will launch a third next month in Okinawa.

Japan’s three major mobile operators are working toward launching limited commercial 5G services in 2019, with pilots scheduled to take place during the Rugby World Cup. Representatives from Docomo, KDDI and SoftBank told a government hearing last month full 5G services for smartphones would commence in 2020.