Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The High-Speed Cellular-Network Showdown

CIO Today looks at the various high speed cellular networks availalble in the U.S. Phillip Redman at Gartner said, "High-speed broadband implies that you have a fairly high-speed uplink, which in wired systems runs at 256 Kbps on the upload and 1.5 Mbps down. "In wireless today, we see actual download speeds in the 300 to 500 Kbps range, but all the uplink speeds are less than 100 Kbps."

Shiv Bakhshi at IDC added, "EVDO offers download speeds of 400 to 700 Kbps, while EDGE delivers 100 to 130 Kbps, so EVDO has the speed edge today. The better comparison is between EVDO and HSDPA (high-speed downlink packet access), which gets you data download speeds of 700 to 900 Kbps."

Of course, Cingular is juust starting to roll out its HSDPA network while EV-DO is better established via Verizon and Sprint. Lisa Pierce at Forrester Research said, "Speed is an important issue, and, as is true for any wireless technology, we can talk about throughput, about downlink and uplink speeds, improvement through compression, and so on. But the first thing consumers should ask about is availability, then follow up by asking questions about speed and setup."

Most consumers are sticking with their current network operator. Pierce stated, "They have already made the decision that their current voice coverage is sufficient. So if it's Cingular, then they are looking at EDGE, or if it's Verizon or Sprint, then they are looking at EVDO."

Gartner's Redman pointed out that "EDGE coverage is available in the majority of markets, whereas, with EVDO, the coverage is only about 50 to 60 percent and mainly in metropolitan areas."

Bakhshi said, "Because GSM is more widely deployed worldwide, EDGE is more widely available today. And if you are a traveler going to Europe and you have an EVDO phone, that phone won't work over there." Bakhshi also pointed out "Seventy percent of the world has GSM, while only roughly 20 percent of the world has CDMA."

Redman noted "In Europe, 3G is a frequency, not a technology. In the U.S., we don't have 3G frequencies assigned as such," and "What Europeans consider to be 3G is actually based on the UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System) standard, which downloads data at 200 Kbps." He said, "There is a technology coming that will increase UMTS downlink speeds to 1.8 Mbps initially and eventually to 14 Mbps, but right now UMTS is comparable to EDGE and EVDO."

Pierce remarked that thing will contune to change. She said, "Through the use of HSDPA technology, the UMTS technology to be introduced by Cingular Wireless will basically be brought on par with Verizon's EVDO. UMTS will be different from EDGE in much the same way that EVDO is different than CDMA x1RTT. Then, later on, Cingular has said in analyst sessions that it will be using high-speed uplink packet access (HSUPA) to improve speeds in the send direction."

Pierce added, "There aren't a lot of dual-chip CDMA/EVDO devices out there yet to allow simultaneous sessions, but this should be a big market in 2006."