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3G phones on their way as GPRS is exposed
It's all political
"It's all political," said wireless analyst Ira Brodsky. "GSM operators are behind on data delivery, although WCDMA is a step in the right direction. They should have focused on this earlier, instead of taking the incremental step with GPRS, which is stop-gap measure. Now they have to continue working out the bugs in WCDMA concerning dropped calls and handsets that have not yet lived up to expectations."
The perception four years ago was that 3G would take over by 2002 - and gradually, the public expectations shifted. Now, most people would probably be more aware of a local WiFi hotspot than of a proper third generation phone network in their area. And it's probably true that the phone network providers are taking WiFi quite seriously, today.
But (writes Jay Wrolstad) in an interesting survey of the up-coming 3G scene, behind the public gaze, real money is being poured into 3G.
It's easier for the American standard, CDMA, he says, which can upgrade to CDMA-2000; by contrast, GSM has to be pretty much torn up and shredded by those who want to go to UMTS which uses wide-band CDMA (WCDMA) technology.
Wrolstad's article is a must-read - but you might want to do a bit of side reading on what this means for gadget buyers. Because the problem is, once you have been bitten by the mobile data bug, there's no going back.
For instance, there are parts of the world where there is no 3G and won't be for ages, where people have to use GPRS data packets over a GSM network - or where you're stuck with standard CDMA data - both of which are pretty slow.
There are several versions of 3G here, and more coming. No data card, and no phone, will connect to them all, never mind the question of whether they will plug into the older GPRS type service.
Take Vodafone's recent agreement with Verizon to develop a dual branded 'Verizon Vodafone' laptop data card service for business customers working and travelling between the US and Europe. The data card will be based on Vodafone's successful data card service, Vodafone Mobile Connect Card, which Verizon Wireless will develop and market under licence from Vodafone.
"The service will enable Verizon Wireless and Vodafone business customers to seamlessly access their e-mail, the Internet and corporate applications on their lap tops," said the August announcement.
The area covered initially will be "within Vodafone's territories and Verizon Wireless' network in the US, with customers experiencing their same service environment when travelling abroad." That's bigger than it sounds, because of roaming agreements. Even so, it means having to swap cards if you want to move into a WiFi hotspot - or at least, it means having to manually jump from networks. An integrated phone-and-WiFi card, as recently demonstrated by Intel at the IDF, will be the basic requirement.
Most of the NewsFactor article appears to be based on an interview with Datacomm Research president Ira Brodsky - who is just one of several pundits noticing that 3G spending is suddenly coming back.
Additional reading should include some examination of the difference between the two CDMA-2000 contenders; 1XRTT, which is mostly a voice enhancement with some data (up to about 86 kilobits per second) or EVDO, for Evolution Data Only, which is a serious wireless Internet provision system capable of half a megabit, or more, per second.
EVDO is now rolling out in some corners of the North American service area. You can bet that your dual-standard wireless card won't pick it up.
My favourite quote from the article: "Brodsky contends that 3G is available now, with some 900,000 WCDMA customers and about 60 million CDMA 2000 1X customers. "We are not stuck on 2.5G," he maintained. But Brodsky clarified that statement by observing that the GSM industry is not quite there yet with its reliance on 2.5G GPRS technology -- which does not meet the Web-access speed requirements of 3G and is really nothing new."
Spot on. And, he adds: in the paragraph that started this report: "It's all political. GSM operators are behind on data delivery, although WCDMA is a step in the right direction. They should have focused on this earlier, instead of taking the incremental step with GPRS, which is stop-gap measure. Now they have to continue working out the bugs in WCDMA concerning dropped calls and handsets that have not yet lived up to expectations."