The long wait for 3G to mature has resulted in a boom for upgrades to "2.75G" that few predicted eighteen months ago.
The GSM vendors' trade association says that carrier upgrades to EDGE have topped three figures. 103 carriers have committed to upgrade to EDGE in 64 countries, and 27 are already providing commercial services, according to the Global Mobile Suppliers Association, the GSA. That's up from around 40 last autumn.
EDGE upgrades were expected to appeal to operators who balked at, or missed out on, a 3G license at auction. And that's still the case, with Latin America leading the way. However some operators, like AT&T Wireless, are happy to plump for both. AT&T Wireless has upgraded its old TDMA to EDGE, and this week launched 3G pilots in four cities: Seattle, San Francisco, Detroit and Washington DC. This does not necessarily translate to a revenue bonanza for the equipment vendors, as the 2.5G to 2.75G upgrade can in many cases be made without buying new infrastructure. Typically, EDGE involves a ten per cent incremental cost addition, according to the GSA.
The GSA also reckons there are 5.4 million users of the W-CDMA (UMTS) flavor of 3G, and that the adoption ramp is steeper than with GSM back in 1992. But then that was so slow critics called it "God send mobiles!". ®
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