Feeds

3G mast wars ahoy!

Brace for protests, me mobile buckaroos

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Security for virtualized datacentres

If you think the mobile phone mast wars have been bad so far, you ain't seen nothing yet. That's according to 3G equipment and software suppliers, who estimate that if 3G is to replace GSM as planned, the networks will need three to four times as many transmitters as they have today.

Peter Jones, strategy and marketing director at wireless performance engineering specialist Actix, warned a conference this week: "A substantial build-out will be needed when traffic takes off - the networks will probably need to be four times as big.

"For example, Orange has around 20,000 cells, it might get to 3G with 40,000 to 50,000. The big problem is regulation - the agony of getting local government to agree to new sites. Re-using existing sites is the opening gambit - it won't scale though, and they're not in the right places."

At issue is the fact that GSM propagates differently from the WCDMA technology used in 3G networks. For a start, how GSM cells overlap is adjusted remotely by altering the frequency each transmits at, but WCDMA is all on one frequency, so adjustment means an engineer visiting the base station and physically realigning the transmitters.

Then there's the way a WCDMA cell responds to increasing usage by effectively shrinking, a phenomenon called cell breathing. This means you need more overlapping cells to provide good coverage - and also that the best site for a GSM mast is not necessarily the best for a 3G one.

"WCDMA is much more dynamic than GSM - users interfere with each other," Jones continued. "Today's networks are focused on coverage. If subscribers really used services such as video streaming and data, the networks would collapse."

"3G networks are not ready yet for widespread adoption," confirmed Mark Hoogerbrugge, worldwide business development manager for test equipment maker Agilent. He added that operators are only now focusing on the data performance of their networks, which is of course vital if they are to sell us anything beyond basic voice services and still make money at it.

He said that classic radio frequency planning and optimisation is pointless in 3G - the only way is to physically adjust the transmitters, then take a measuring rig (from Agilent, natch!) and go "drive testing", using network services such as streaming video, web, email and voice in different locations to see how they perform.

The irony is that both Jones and Hoogerbrugge were speaking at a press event in London, designed to promote 3G and show how far it has come.

They still argue it will succeed though, saying that site or even network sharing may help, as is already done or planned in places such as Sweden. However, there are only 45,000 sites in the UK today, so even with some sharing, more will be needed.

It all poses uncomfortable questions for the 3G operators. They want to believe that WCDMA is the future, but it could just be a case of the Emperor's New Clothes, where everyone involved has invested so much time, technology and money that no-one dares to admit they've picked a wrong 'un. ®

Related stories

Bank of America sells flagpoles as cellular masts
'Cosmic' baker attacks phone mast
3G has arrived: Official

Protecting against web application threats using SSL

More from The Register

next story
Brit telcos warn Scots that voting Yes could lead to HEFTY bills
BT and Co: Independence vote likely to mean 'increased costs'
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
New 'Cosmos' browser surfs the net by TXT alone
No data plan? No WiFi? No worries ... except sluggish download speed
Radio hams can encrypt, in emergencies, says Ofcom
Consultation promises new spectrum and hints at relaxed licence conditions
Turnbull: NBN won't turn your town into Silicon Valley
'People have been brainwashed to believe that their world will be changed forever if they get FTTP'
Blockbuster book lays out the first 20 years of the Smartphone Wars
Symbian's David Wood bares all. Not for the faint hearted
Bonking with Apple has POUNDED mobe operators' wallets
... into submission. Weve squeals, ditches payment plans
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL
Discussing the vulnerabilities inherent in Wi-Fi networks, and how using TLS/SSL for your entire site will assure security.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.