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UK cellular outfit to deploy fast data system next year

Not 3G, but Ericsson's GPRS will enable the wireless Web for One2One

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UK cellular operator One2One is to deploy an Ericsson data network capable of speeds of up to 115 kbp/s, it was announced yesterday at CeBIT. The system is the European GPRS (General Packet Radio Services), which is designed to run alongside GSM networks. GPRS has been in the works for some years now, but until relatively recently it was starting to look as if 3G broadband networks would start to deploy before GPRS became widely available. Ericsson however has struck three deals for GPRS in this quarter. The One2One system will go live next year. Although GPRS doesn't offer the high speeds promised for 3G systems, it has a number of virtues. It takes speeds higher than can currently be achieved by GSM data, and it provides data services without straining the capacity of GSM voice networks. You can achieve higher speeds on GSM by various means, including using multiple channels, but the networks obviously don't want to use valuable voice capacity for this, and they most certainly don't want to price GSM data lower than GSM voice. GPRS therefore gives them the ability to run a cheaper data pricing structure without torching their voice revenues. It also provides a possible lifeline for networks who're not entirely sure they'll win 3G licences. Existing networks will in general bid for them, but there will be new entrants too, and depending on the auction policies followed by the relevant governments, some of today's players could be priced out of the market. But if they can continue to offer robust GSM voice services plus data in the early years of 3G deployment they can stay in business. As 3G deployment will be slow, GSM plus GPRS systems will actually be more useful to customers than 3G for quite some considerable time. ®

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