Feeds

GSM rebrands 3G service but claims victory over CDMA prematurely

CDMA2000 ahead of 3GSM

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

The GSM Association has rebranded its 3G technology as 3GSM to avoid confusion with CDMA, and is claiming resounding victory over the Qualcomm-controlled rival. This is somewhat premature.

Few doubt that, eventually, the GSM upgrade paths to 3G – which embrace GPRS, EDGE and W-CDMA – will be more dominant than the 2.5G and 3G versions of CDMA, CDMA2000 1xRTT, EV-DO and EV-DV. But the CDMA upgrade path has been far simpler and smoother than the GSM one, so at this stage it is ahead in terms of live 3G networks and actual subscriber numbers. And the delays and technical hiccups in W-CDMA have served to enhance the appeal of CDMA and to guarantee it a longer and stronger life than would have been predicted a few years ago.

The GSM Association, the industry body behind the cellular standard, said this week that 85% of the world's operators have committed to W-CDMA. Its chief Ron Conway was on the offensive – or perhaps the defensive – slamming Australia's Telstra for choosing recently to upgrade to CDMA2000 1X EV-DO for its Mobile Loop services. By 2008, its users will be unable to roam in other countries, he claimed.

He was keen to reassure carriers that the key technical problem with 3GSM, the incompatibility of handsets with GPRS and GSM, was "on the way to being fixed", though this fixing process has already dragged on for far too long.
But despite teething problems, the installed base of GSM will ensure the success of 3GSM in the medium term. It has 850m subscribers worldwide, compared to 150m for CDMA, according to researchers at ABI. At this point, however, CDMA2000 is ahead. Of the 20 live 3G networks in the world, the CDMA-based ones have higher subscriber levels because there have been fewer technical problems, more rapid development of attractive handsets and more appealing pricing.

For instance, SK Telecom in South Korea has 1.5m EV-DO subscribers, compared to under 1m on NTT DoCoMo's 3GSM system, which is of a similar age and scale. And rival Japanese carrier KDDI has 10m subscribers on its 2.5G and 3G CDMA 1x services, branded 'au'. SKT says its network delivers real world data rates of 700Kbps and its subscribers spend an average of $22 per month each on data options, compared to $5-7 per month on the carrier's 2.5G 1xRTT network.

Reinforcing the strength of CDMA2000 – even if this proves shortlived – Verizon Wireless has launched its BroadbandAccess EV-DO service in San Diego and Washington DC. This data-only network requires a special PC card, priced at $150, and costs $80 monthly flat rate, with real world sustained data rates of 300-500Kbps (the theoretical rate is 2.4Mbps). Verizon claims it downloads files 20 times more quickly than GPRS and five times faster than EDGE. EV-DO services remain expensive, although the US' first such network, Monet’s in the Midwest, is half the price of Verizon's, and prices are sure to come down under pressure from other services including Wi-Fi – although typical 802.11b hotspot data rates are about the same as EV-DO's real speed.

Verizon is also testing 1xEV-DV. However, Sprint PCS told the Washington Post that it has an opposite strategy for high speed data services, with no plans to roll out EV-DO for at least two years. Instead, it is focusing on its newly announced Wi-Fi service, based on building its own hotspots and leasing those of Wayport. Sprint said this is a more "fiscally prudent" approach as there is little infrastructure investment involved, and it claims Wi-Fi is faster than EV-DO for most data applications.

This decision leaves Verizon Wireless with the broadband cellular data market to itself for a while, apart from small players like Monet. Two major factors will affect the eventual pattern of 3G. One is China, whose government is still hesitating to make final decisions on licenses. If it opts for the third 3G standard – TD-SCDMA, developed by Chinese companies and Siemens – Conway claims this will be easily integrated with GSM-based networks.

It is expected that China will issue licenses for at least two of the three 3G networks, and will make its decision in the second quarter of next year. Exclusion of either CDMA2000 or 3GSM would be a major blow. However, it is certainly not a foregone conclusion that China will reject CDMA2000. Growing demand in Japan and South Korea – and in China for 2G CDMA services – is keeping the Qualcomm technology in the race. Subscribers to CDMA in Asia-Pacific increased by 18m to 63m in the year to 30 June, with over half of these on 2.5G or 3G systems, say researchers.

The second factor in 3G's fate is, of course, whether 3G networks take off at any significant level at all, or whether they will be marginalized by Wi-Fi/WiMAX and by the advent of IP-based 4G.

Related Research
Get the Wireless Watch Report and Weekly Newsletter, click here

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

More from The Register

next story
6 Obvious Reasons Why Facebook Will Ban This Article (Thank God)
Clampdown on clickbait ... and El Reg is OK with this
So, Apple won't sell cheap kit? Prepare the iOS garden wall WRECKING BALL
It can throw the low cost race if it looks to the cloud
EE fails to apologise for HUGE T-Mobile outage that hit Brits on Friday
Customer: 'Please change your name to occasionally somewhere'
Time Warner Cable customers SQUEAL as US network goes offline
A rude awakening: North Americans greeted with outage drama
We need less U.S. in our WWW – Euro digital chief Steelie Neelie
EC moves to shift status quo at Internet Governance Forum
BT customers face broadband and landline price hikes
Poor punters won't be affected, telecoms giant claims
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up Big Data
Solving backup challenges and “protect everything from everywhere,” as we move into the era of big data management and the adoption of BYOD.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?