KDDI is close to deciding on its infrastructure partners for the deployment of a US$1.3 billion mobile WiMAX network in Japan, according to an Unstrung report. The mobile operator has formed a joint venture with Intel Capital, East Japan Railway Company, Kyocera, Daiwa Securities Group, and the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi for the launch of a 2.5GHz network that will be operated by a company called Wireless Broadband Planning K.K. According to the report, Fujitsu and Samsung are the front-runners for the deal, which will be announced by March.

Wireless Broadband Planning K.K was awarded a national WiMAX license at the end of last year in a beauty contest. The venture has committed to spending 145 billion Japanese yen (US$1.3 billion) through March 2014. The other license winner in Japan was PHS operator Willcom, which plans to invest US$1.7 billion over six years on a next-generation PHS network at 2.5GHz. The two winners beat out joint ventures led by rivals NTT DoCoMo and Softbank. KDDI’s venture aims to deploy 19,000 mobile WiMAX base stations nationwide by March 2013, covering 90% of the population. Its goal is to win 5.6 million WiMAX customers by March 2014. KDDI’s current subscriber base in Japan is 30 million. Commercial services are expected to start in the summer of 2009. The planned network is the mobile industry’s second major nationwide WiMAX network currently in the works, with U.S. operator Sprint Nextel also prepping its own deployment.