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HSDPA puts 3G on steroids

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3GSM Mobile operators across Europe are looking to supercharge mobile data access speeds with technology that puts 3G on steroids. Orange, T-Mobile and Telecom Italia have all outlined plans to launch services based on High Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) technology that offer download speeds of anywhere between 1-2Mbps up to a theoretical maximum of 3.6Mbps.

Orange said it plans to launch '3.5G' mobile services based on HSDPA to business users in France and the UK during the second half of this year, with services targeted at consumers to follow early next year. T-Mobile said it would launch HSDPA services in Germany this quarter. Meanwhile Telecom Italia announced a May launch on HSDPA in Italy's biggest cities (Rome, Turin and Milan) along with plans to roll out the technology to across half the country by the end of 2006. It plans to spend € 60m - € 70m upgrading its network.

Kai Sahala, head of 3G system communications at Nokia Networks, said operators are interested in HSDPA technology to improve speed and capacities because it only involves a software upgrade to W-CDMA 3G networks, rather than an upgrade of radio technology than came with the step up from GSM or GPRS to 3G. Sahala argued that the technology was a more sensible upgrade path for operators who've already invested in 3G licences than possible alternatives such as WiMax. Standards have only recently been ratified and the technology is around two years from serious commercial roll-outs, according to Nokia.

HSDPA offers download speeds up to five times more than available on 3G but its widespread availability is dependant on the availability of suitable handsets and data cards. Hoping to cash in on potential demand, Samsung launched a new HSDPA phone for Europe, the SGH-Z560. Meanwhile Option has developed a tri-band HSDPA, 3G and wireless data card, the GlobeTrotter FUSION+ HSDPA. T-Mobile Germany will use the technology to support its commercial launch and roll-out plans. ®

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