Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Will WiMax play second fiddle to 3G? - A Report

Analyst firm Frost & Sullivan has sunk the boot into the much talked about high-speed mobile broadband service known as WiMax, saying it will play a secondary role to 3G in Australia in the coming years.

A key restraint of the emerging WiMax technology at the moment is its lack of mobility. While users can get fast Internet wirelessly, the moment they are in motion, for example, on a train, the signal drops out.

According to Frost & Sullivan analyst Tony Tu, this is one major hurdle the wireless industry needs to overcome if it intends to pick up customers.

In the meantime the ability of the current 3G networks by Vodafone, Optus, Telstra and Optus across metropolitan Australia to provide reasonably fast data speeds weighs against WiMax, limiting it to a supporting role, he claims.

"WiMax is complementary to 3G data services as it provides high bandwidth. But we see it as a nice offering," he said.

Furthermore, the ability of 3G to scale to the even faster HSDPA, known as 3.5G, may be a more worthwhile proposition for subscribers as the basic infrastructure already exists.

HSDPA is High Speed Downlink Packet Access, a mobile broadband standard capable of reaching downlink speeds of 14.4Mbs. In real life, users can expect actual download speeds of between one and 1.8Mbs, with peak upload speeds of 384Kbs.

"It is unlikely existing mobile carriers will invest in WiMax. HSDPA is a cost-effective alternative to existing mobile carriers," he said.

One of the key players in the wireless broadband, and soon to be WiMax space, Unwired, disagrees with Tu's assessment. Unwired's CTO Eric Hamilton said the assumption that WiMax will be in a supporting role is not proven.

"In fact, the question that needs to be considered is whether WiMax will intrude into 3G territory by offering voice, video and other applications."

Hamilton says WiMax will have better performance compared to 3G-based technologies. "This will be the case in terms of all three Cs - Coverage, Capacity and hence Cost."

He said this will be most apparent when customers seek to use a "true" broadband service, where significant uplink (from the customer to the network) capacity is used as well as downlink capacity (from the network to the customer). "In these circumstances the WiMax technology has a significant advantage," he said.

"If a large number of customers choose to take up wireless broadband services, the amount of spectrum and infrastructure needed to support services will be important. At this time suppliers of 3G-based services have significant spectrum limitations, while Unwired and Austar are extremely well placed to take advantage of their spectrum holdings to provide a wide range of broadband services to fixed, portable, nomadic and mobile users across Australia."

Tu said mass adoption in Australia of WiMax should take place in 2009, predicting 500,000 Australians will be subscribed to the technology. This is when chipset-embedded notebooks and Customer Premises Equipment drop to more affordable levels.


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Broadband, 3G - Gateway For Nex-Gen Technologies

Telecom service providers in the Asia Pacific region are looking to broadband and mobile segments to enhance diminishing revenues from the fixed voice segment.

Countries like India and Indonesia are experiencing an increased adoption of 3G services and broadband, while their flourishing cellular markets ensure continuing competitiveness.

A Frost & Sullivan's analysis, which covers 13 major Asia Pacific economies - Asia Pacific Telecom Services Review and Forecast Databank, revealed that revenues in this market in 2004 totaled $246.20 billion and is expected to touch $320.80 billion by the end of 2008.

"Although service providers are providing faster network speed, the pressure to bring down prices persists. In time, service providers are likely to migrate to flat-rate or capped plans, as the cellular market matures and the rate of broadband adoption improves," said Janice Chong, Program Leader, Frost & Sullivan.

3G service providers offering transparent and bundled packages that comprise voice and data services are now offering flat-rate schemes, and unlimited data download packages offered by broadband service providers are becoming increasingly popular.

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Europe’s first Mobile TV Phone and Service

Samsung Electronics and Debitel (A major German Mobile telephone provider) are offering the first European Mobile TV phone and service. The offering willl allow subscribers to watch 2006 World Cup games on their Samsung P900 handsets in ladnscape view. The service will be available in 5 major cities - Berlin, Cologne, Munich, Stuttgart and Frankfurt - and will extend to more cities thereafter. Samsung has already provided satellite and terestrial DMB (Digital Multimedia Broadcasting) phones to the Korean market.

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Japan's DoCoMo planning big push in Asia

Japanese operator NTT DoCoMo says it is planning a big expansion into Asian markets like Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam in an effort to capitalize on the expected demand for 3G services. DoCoMo doesn't have a stellar track record when it comes to international acquisitions. In 2000, the company committed about $23 billion in acquisitions to port its i-mode technology, including more than $15 billion for a share of AT&T Wireless, an investment which turned out to be ill-timed. Problems signing up i-mode subscribers in Europe and the tanking of the telecom industry in 2001-2002 took a heavy toll on DoCoMo's international investments. The firm wrote off almost $15 billion in international share value in 2001-2002 and stopped international expansions in early 2002. It ended up making technical alliances with operators in Europe and Asia to push i-mode. Now DoCoMo faces a super-saturated market in Japan and needs to find growth elsewhere.

For more about NTT DoCoMo's international plans:
- read this article from the Financial Times

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High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) is a new mobile telephony protocol and is also known to as 3.5G (or “3½G”) technology which is one step higher for 3G. In this respect it extends WCDMA in the same way that EV-DO extends CDMA2000. HSDPA provides a smooth evolutionary path for Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) networks allowing for higher data capacity (up to 14.4 Mbps in the downlink). It is an evolution of the W-CDMA standard, designed to increase the available data rate by a factor of 5 or more. HSDPA defines a new W-CDMA channel, the high-speed downlink shared channel (HS-DSCH) that operates in a different way from existing W-CDMA channels, but is only used for downlink communication to the mobile.


The HS-DSCH channel does away with two basic features of other WCDMA channels - the variable spreading factor and fast power control - and instead uses 1. Adaptive Modulation and Coding (AMC), 2. fast packet scheduling at the Node B (Base Station) and 3. fast retransmissions from Node B (known as HARQ-Hybrid Automatic Repeat Request) to deliver the improved downlink performance. The concept of “incremental redundancy” is used in HARQ, where retransmissions contain different codings of the user data, relative to the orignal transmission. When a corrupted packet is received, the user device saves it, and combines it with subsequent retransmissions, to formulate an error-free packet as quickly and efficiently as possible. Even if the retransmitted packet(s) is itself corrupted, the combination of the sum of the errored transmissions can yield an error-free packet.

The HS-DSCH downlink channel is shared between users using channel-dependent scheduling to take advantage of favourable channel conditions to make best use of available radio conditions. Each user device periodically transmits (as many as 500 times per second) an indication of the downlink signal quality. The Node B uses this information received from all user devices to decide which users will be sent data on the next 2 ms frame and, for each user, how much data should be attempted. More data can be sent to users which report high downlink signal quality.

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