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FT, Alcatel demo next year's high-speed wireless access

FT Paris trial goes live in Geneva

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France Telecom and Alcatel have are mounting a live demonstration of high-speed GPRS (General Packet Radio System) wireless data at this week's Telecom 99 in Geneva. France Telecom intends to roll out GPRS to its Itineris mobile customers next year, offering wireless Internet access at up to 115kbit/s. The Geneva demo, according to FT, is a live implementation of the trial that's been running in the Paris area, based on Alcatel's GPRS end-to-end network platform. It's running various applications, including a multimedia tourist guide for Telecom 99 (presumably it tells you, no, you can't get a hotel or book a restaurant table), email, and image and sound transfer via the Internet. GPRS is effectively a GSM add-on, allowing a high speed data network to be run alongside existing voice ones (which of course currently also carry data at a feeble 9.6kbit/s). It runs on existing infrastructures, and in Alcatel's case this requires the addition of two elements, the SGSN (Serving GPRS Support Node), which manages mobility, encryption, compression and charging, and GGSN (Gateway GPRS Support Node), which provides interaction with external packet data networks. FT is also involved in GPRS trials with Motorola. Also at the show, Motorola and Alcatel have been demonstrating joint-developed UMTS 3G wireless. Alcatel is showing a "concept' multimedia terminal offering Internet access at 115kbit/s, which is less than 3G can theoretically do, but is an indication of how much GPRS is seen as being an evolutionary stage towards UMTS. Even if Alcatel hadn't called its concept the Evolution Mobile Vision. ®

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