Twenty-six of the biggest players in the mobile phone industry have signed an accord that could lead to newer, faster wireless technology. The companies behind the initiative include Vodafone, NTT DoCoMo, NEC, Siemens, Alcatel and about 20 others. The aim of the consortium is to develop a new standard for the transmission of data over mobile networks - a standard that will be up to 10 times faster than 3G (UMTS), which is still in its infancy.
The as-yet-undeveloped standard is to be called "Super 3G", according to early media reports, which also say that development of the technology could conclude by 2007, with commercial launches after 2009. It is thought that the new standard could allow for services not available over 3G, including continuous video broadcasting and full movie downloads.
Still, it is worth remembering that most mobile operators with 3G networks have not yet turned a profit on their high-speed wireless services, after spending billions on 3G licences and billions more on network rollout. According to Japanese newspaper Nihon Keizai Shimbun, DoCoMo alone would need to pay out some JPY100bn ($959m) to upgrade its infrastructure for Super 3G.
In the nearer term, UK-based mobile operator mmO2 said in early December that it will launch a "super-fast" 3G network in 2005, promising speeds faster than current fixed broadband levels. The mobile operator, which has yet to launch its main consumer 3G service, said it will offer high-speed downlink packet access (HSDPA) technology and Internet Protocol Multimedia Services (IMS) with download speeds of 3.6Mbps, which will increase to 14.4Mbps as handsets become available.
MmO2 will initially pilot the speedy 3G service in the Isle of Man, in conjunction with its subsidiary Manx Telecom, and in much the same way that it piloted a 3G service there in 2001.
In what the operator claims to be Europe's first deployment of such a super-fast 3G service, consumers will be able to download movie clips, interactive multi-player video games and music videos some three times faster than existing commercial 3G networks, according to mmO2. The service, at first, will only be available to customers with laptops with special plug-in wireless cards.
O2's super-fast 3G service will be available commercially to customers in the Isle of Man by summer 2005, and mmO2's 3G networks in Ireland, the UK and Germany will incorporate the enhanced 3G technology late in 2005. MmO2 has also been trialling a mobile TV service in Oxford in the UK in recent weeks using prototype handsets by Nokia and Samsung. The pilot enabled consumers to access TV content over their mobile phones.