3G begins to gather momentum, but vexing issues remain

IDG News Service |  Mobile & Wireless

There are two main factors driving carriers, Chapman said. "The 3G licenses that they bought came with conditions, often giving deadlines and stating what percentage of the population must be covered. Also, they need the additional capacity that 3G brings -- existing GSM networks just can't support large growth in subscriber numbers. It's not a very exciting reason to want 3G but it's important," he said.

As for the consumers, "they don't want 3G, they want better services," Chapman said. A consumer who gets used to sending pictures from their phone will want to send better quality pictures, and to send them faster, and will choose a phone that can do that, rather than choosing a new technology, he said.

"For 3G to take off you need a competitive array of handsets available and you need networks that provide near ubiquitous coverage. We think that will take until 2005," he said.

The recent announcements show the divergence between different 3G network technologies, with some countries opting for CDMA2000 1X and others for WCDMA. CDMA2000 1X is leading at the moment, but Mawston believes that will fall back and WCDMA will pick up momentum around 2005. By 2008, he expects to see most 3G networks using WCDMA, he said.

"1X is doing quite well at the moment, with about two-thirds of 3G sales, but WCDMA will win in the long term. It can build on the installed base of GSM (networks) and four out of five of the top handset vendors are behind it," he said. Nokia, Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., Motorola Inc. and Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB all back the WCDMA technology, Mawston said.

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