Super 3G group flexes its muscles

DoCoMo takes on WiMAX

NTT DoCoMo and Vodafone, the carriers that are most reliant on the survival of the GSM technologies into a fourth generation, have formed the Super 3G group to develop upgrades for W-CDMA.

Although its roadmap is vague and its work may well be redundant, given the number of other 4G developments, it shows DoCoMo seeking to drive future standards and see off the OFDM community. The Japanese, Korean and Chinese players have recently tended to band together to set an Asian-led agenda for 4G, but now Samsung is on the other side of the fence, positioning itself to drive the next iteration of mobile communications through its involvement in WiMAX, and showing a cold face to DoCoMo’s latest manoeuvres.

The start of the new year saw two important, and not unrelated, events in the world of next generation wireless networks. A group of companies spearheaded by Japanese operator NTT DoCoMo announced plans to develop ‘Super 3G’, while Korea’s Samsung finally joined the WiMAX Forum.

The reason these two events cannot be viewed in isolation is that they show the Asian-led move to create the fourth generation network being split down the middle. The two main movers and shakers to date in creating platforms for future 4G, DoCoMo and Samsung, are taking very different paths to achieving their aim of a new mobile generation that will be driven from the East, not the US and Europe. DoCoMo has to stay faithful to its W-CDMA roots and Super 3G shows it marshalling the forces of this market to stand against threats from WiMAX, while Samsung is embracing WiMAX as the most likely future basis of 4G, and seeking to take a dominant position in that community.

These two developments highlight several conflicts whose outcome will shape mobile communications in the second half of the decade. The Super 3G group, which also includes Vodafone and many large vendors, is technologically redundant, when set against the existing 4G development efforts (by individual vendors like Nokia and bodis like 3GPP), plus the emergence of broadband wireless. However, it is a clear signal from the dominant players in cellular networks that they aim to stop the development of 4G falling into the hands of factions with different agendas from their own – particularly the vendors that are backing WiMAX as the next generation network.

In that model, new operators will be able to enter premium mobile services with relative ease, and the focus – as in Wi-Fi – will be on the device rather than the network, threatening to reduce the cellcos to bit carriers. Both would seriously threaten the business assumptions on which large cellcos built their expensive plans for 3G and beyond.

The stakes are highest of all for DoCoMo, which has invested more than any other company in 4G and seeks to drive the global agenda. In the past, the Japanese giant merely aimed to launch new technologies ahead of the world, often in a ‘prestandard’ mode that was incompatible with other networks – most famously, its FOMA proprietary implementation of WCDMA 3G. Now, it recognizes, like Intel in the WiMAX camp, that it needs to work with its international rivals to influence global standards rather than staying in its own technological island.

The evolution of 4G

This will put new impetus behind the creation of 4G. Once slated for commercial deployment in the 2010-2015 timeframe, the project has remained very much confined to the laboratories and standards bodies, with very little consensus on what exactly a 4G network will comprise. There are basic definitions – 4G, according to the ITU and other industry forums, should be IPbased, run at 100Mbps while mobile and 1Gbps when fixed, support next generation applications such as high definition television to the handset, and span fixed and mobile communications.

But specifics on how this would be achieved have remained vague, and despite early stage demonstrations by DoCoMo and others, technological consensus has not been reached. Now that has to change, as WiMAX holds out the prospect of a globally harmonized, fixed and mobile network that could deliver 4G performance – as defined above - before the end of the decade. Already companies like Motorola and Siemens are demonstrating OFDM networks at close to 1Gbps, while others like Wi-Lan are showing off connections at high speed, up to 100 kilometers per hour.

Good news for users demanding applications such as mobile television or heavy duty corporate data exchange – neither really satisfied by 3G – since these facilities could be offered far earlier than expected, and at better prices. Good news for all those equipment makers and operators that have been excluded, by choice or market failure, from cashing in on cellular networks, but which now have a second bite at the mobile cherry.

Very bad news for operators – and for suppliers that are too heavily dependent on GSM or CDMA networks – who are stuck with a 3G technology that may have a shorter lifespan than expected. Not only will it be harder, if 4G standards are dominated by a different set of interests and technologies, to gain return on their huge investments in 3G, but they will not be able to exploit those technologies in moving to the next generation. Instead, they will be starting on a level playing field with the new entrants, but weighted down by a massive legacy burden.

Cellular sector bites back

The cellular community – led by uber-operators DoCoMo and Vodafone, and some key vendors – is fighting back aggressively, with Super 3G just the latest defensive position against the rise of a 4G based on WiMAX.

The lineup of its 27 initial supporters is telling. Here are many of the world’s largest cellcos, whose current dominance depends on the mass implementation of their 3G cellular networks – DoCoMo itself, Vodafone, US market leader Cingular Wireless and China Mobile lead the pack. All of these have shied away from broadband wireless or any next generation technology that would involve a difficult migration from 3G.

This is very much a group led by carriers, and mainly by WCDMA, although Qualcomm, the controller of the rival 3G standard CDMA2000, is also a member. One lesson learned must be that the two cellular communities must band together to create 4G, not risk another split, especially since WiMAX can now offer the promise of the world’s first globally unified mobile standard.

Samsung’s decisions

This enormously important claim has been largely possible because of the Korean vendors Samsung and LG Electronics. Samsung was the main force in developing the Korean Wi-Bro standard for OFDM-based broadband mobility, and argued that this should be the basis of the upcoming mobile version of WiMAX, 802.16e. Intel and others initially resisted such a move, threatening to create two rival networks, one for Asia and one for the west, but consensus was reached last fall, with Intel and LG agreeing to lead the effort to harmonize Wi-Bro and 802.16e, not only accelerating the standards process but holding out the prospect of a globally agreed standard.

The new friendship was sealed this week when Samsung officially joined the WiMAX Forum as a principal member. With its actions, the Korean giant, and to a lesser extent its compatriot LG, has positioned itself to take the role of a Nokia or a DoCoMo in mobile WiMAX, which it would argue will be the basis of 4G. Samsung and DoCoMo have been, for some years, the most vociferous movers behind 4G development, with extensive R&D programs and initiatives, such as Samsung’s annual 4G Vision Forum, to raise awareness and attract industry interest.

Next page: Asian-driven 4G

Similar topics

Broader topics

Other stories you might like

  • Demand for PC and smartphone chips drops 'like a rock' says CEO of China’s top chipmaker
    Markets outside China are doing better, but at home vendors have huge component stockpiles

    Demand for chips needed to make smartphones and PCs has dropped "like a rock" – but mostly in China, according to Zhao Haijun, the CEO of China's largest chipmaker Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC).

    Speaking on the company's Q1 2022 earnings call last Friday, Zhao said smartphone makers currently have five months inventory to hand, so are working through that stockpile before ordering new product. Sales of PCs, consumer electronics and appliances are also in trouble, the CEO said, leaving some markets oversupplied with product for now. But unmet demand remains for silicon used for Wi-Fi 6, power conversion, green energy products, and analog-to-digital conversion.

    Zhao partly attributed sales slumps to the Ukraine war which has made the Russian market off limits to many vendors and effectively taken Ukraine's 44 million citizens out of the global market for non-essential purchases.

    Continue reading
  • Colocation consolidation: Analysts look at what's driving the feeding frenzy
    Sometimes a half-sized shipping container at the base of a cell tower is all you need

    Analysis Colocation facilities aren't just a place to drop a couple of servers anymore. Many are quickly becoming full-fledged infrastructure-as-a-service providers as they embrace new consumption-based models and place a stronger emphasis on networking and edge connectivity.

    But supporting the growing menagerie of value-added services takes a substantial footprint and an even larger customer base, a dynamic that's driven a wave of consolidation throughout the industry, analysts from Forrester Research and Gartner told The Register.

    "You can only provide those value-added services if you're big enough," Forrester research director Glenn O'Donnell said.

    Continue reading
  • D-Wave deploys first US-based Advantage quantum system
    For those that want to keep their data in the homeland

    Quantum computing outfit D-Wave Systems has announced availability of an Advantage quantum computer accessible via the cloud but physically located in the US, a key move for selling quantum services to American customers.

    D-Wave reported that the newly deployed system is the first of its Advantage line of quantum computers available via its Leap quantum cloud service that is physically located in the US, rather than operating out of D-Wave’s facilities in British Columbia.

    The new system is based at the University of Southern California, as part of the USC-Lockheed Martin Quantum Computing Center hosted at USC’s Information Sciences Institute, a factor that may encourage US organizations interested in evaluating quantum computing that are likely to want the assurance of accessing facilities based in the same country.

    Continue reading
  • Bosses using AI to hire candidates risk discriminating against disabled applicants
    US publishes technical guide to help organizations avoid violating Americans with Disabilities Act

    The Biden administration and Department of Justice have warned employers using AI software for recruitment purposes to take extra steps to support disabled job applicants or they risk violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

    Under the ADA, employers must provide adequate accommodations to all qualified disabled job seekers so they can fairly take part in the application process. But the increasing rollout of machine learning algorithms by companies in their hiring processes opens new possibilities that can disadvantage candidates with disabilities. 

    The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the DoJ published a new document this week, providing technical guidance to ensure companies don't violate ADA when using AI technology for recruitment purposes.

    Continue reading
  • How ICE became a $2.8b domestic surveillance agency
    Your US tax dollars at work

    The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has spent about $2.8 billion over the past 14 years on a massive surveillance "dragnet" that uses big data and facial-recognition technology to secretly spy on most Americans, according to a report from Georgetown Law's Center on Privacy and Technology.

    The research took two years and included "hundreds" of Freedom of Information Act requests, along with reviews of ICE's contracting and procurement records. It details how ICE surveillance spending jumped from about $71 million annually in 2008 to about $388 million per year as of 2021. The network it has purchased with this $2.8 billion means that "ICE now operates as a domestic surveillance agency" and its methods cross "legal and ethical lines," the report concludes.

    ICE did not respond to The Register's request for comment.

    Continue reading
  • Fully automated AI networks less than 5 years away, reckons Juniper CEO
    You robot kids, get off my LAN

    AI will completely automate the network within five years, Juniper CEO Rami Rahim boasted during the company’s Global Summit this week.

    “I truly believe that just as there is this need today for a self-driving automobile, the future is around a self-driving network where humans literally have to do nothing,” he said. “It's probably weird for people to hear the CEO of a networking company say that… but that's exactly what we should be wishing for.”

    Rahim believes AI-driven automation is the latest phase in computer networking’s evolution, which began with the rise of TCP/IP and the internet, was accelerated by faster and more efficient silicon, and then made manageable by advances in software.

    Continue reading
  • Pictured: Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way
    We speak to scientists involved in historic first snap – and no, this isn't the M87*

    Astronomers have captured a clear image of the gigantic supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy for the first time.

    Sagittarius A*, or Sgr A* for short, is 27,000 light-years from Earth. Scientists knew for a while there was a mysterious object in the constellation of Sagittarius emitting strong radio waves, though it wasn't really discovered until the 1970s. Although astronomers managed to characterize some of the object's properties, experts weren't quite sure what exactly they were looking at.

    Years later, in 2020, the Nobel Prize in physics was awarded to a pair of scientists, who mathematically proved the object must be a supermassive black hole. Now, their work has been experimentally verified in the form of the first-ever snap of Sgr A*, captured by more than 300 researchers working across 80 institutions in the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration. 

    Continue reading
  • Shopping for malware: $260 gets you a password stealer. $90 for a crypto-miner...
    We take a look at low, low subscription prices – not that we want to give anyone any ideas

    A Tor-hidden website dubbed the Eternity Project is offering a toolkit of malware, including ransomware, worms, and – coming soon – distributed denial-of-service programs, at low prices.

    According to researchers at cyber-intelligence outfit Cyble, the Eternity site's operators also have a channel on Telegram, where they provide videos detailing features and functions of the Windows malware. Once bought, it's up to the buyer how victims' computers are infected; we'll leave that to your imagination.

    The Telegram channel has about 500 subscribers, Team Cyble documented this week. Once someone decides to purchase of one or more of Eternity's malware components, they have the option to customize the final binary executable for whatever crimes they want to commit.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022