Each user's data, be it compressed voice or IP packets, is multiplied by what's called a 'spreading code' which is unique to that user. The receiving basestation gets the combined signals from every user on the frequency, but dividing that received data by the user's spreading code reproduces the original data for that specific user. Applying different spreading codes to the same received data can, in W-CDMA, reproduce the communication for almost 200 voice calls - depending on the codecs being used.
Did anyone really make video calls?
Voice still takes precedence, but W-CDMA can support data rates of up to 384Kb/s with minimal connection times. Slower rates are also possible, as well as maintaining several connections at the same time. When 3G data services were developed, it was commonly thought that users would want multiple data connections billed at different rates: a slow connection for e-mail notifications might be free to use, a slightly-faster one for instant messaging could be always connected as part of a premium tariff, while the full 384Kb/s would be available on demand for video calling and the like.
But it's not just video calling that punters proved reluctant to do - not enough were downloading music from the network operators, or subscribing to video streaming services, or really using any of the whiz-bang services by which the operators had justified the billions spent on the licences. Unable to understand the reluctance of users the engineers decided that if only the connections were a little faster then the mobile internet would finally happen, so set about squeezing a little more speed out of the W-CDMA standard.
It's all in the angles - OFDM
OFDM (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing) isn't a new technique, or one unique to the cellular industry: it's also used by the Wi-Fi as well as ADSL broadband and DAB radio, but it is worth understanding as it provides remarkable facility as long as one has a wide enough band in which to use it.
The main problem OFDM solves is one of timing. A transmitter sends a chunk of data, followed by another one: assuming the chunks arrive sequentially then everything is fine, but if the first chunk bounces off a wall and thus arrives slightly later then it can interfere with the second one as their arrivals coincide. Obviously, this problem can be addressed by leaving a timing gap between the chunks, but OFDM instead puts them in different frequencies so the second can be sent immediately after the first.
That requires a fast radio and generally contiguous spectrum - though OFDM can be used in non-contiguous blocks, it's just more difficult. Orthogonal in this context means 'discrete' or 'separate' rather than anything to do with angles or Greeks.
In the process of trying to make OFDM more palatable to a non-comms audience, you seem to have missed the real advantage of the technique. The real beauty of OFDM is the flexibility given by so many orthogonal low-bandwidth sub-carriers: you can avoid the problem of frequency-selective fading for one user (mitigating their bad channel) by moving their allocation in the spectrum. This leads to much more efficient usage of spectrum, and better channels for all. It is excellent at adapting to nasty channel conditions in slowly-changing channels*.
I'm not really sure what you're getting at with regards to "solving" the problem of "timing". If you're referring to inter-symbol interference, which is indeed a concern, then OFDM doesn't directly solve this by "putting [chunks] in different frequencies" - but what it does do is ensure that the symbol rate on each individual component frequency is low enough that ISI can be mitigated easily. But if you're referring to interleaving, which does indeed spread "chunks" of data amongst frequencies, then that helps solve a different problem: the issue of losing bursts of data in frequency-specific fades.
On the down side, OFDM really isn't good in channels with a great deal of doppler shift (since it breaks the orthogonality between the sub-carriers) - making it non-ideal for use in fast-moving vehicles, for instance, without specific counter-measures.
8390? shouldnt that be 8310?
Good article, but as this article seems to have a UK slant to it.. the 8310 should have been the phone that was mentioned as being the first with GPRS in the UK. The 8390 was not even the first phone in the US with GPRS, a motorola timeport was, if i remember correctly.
Jobs - because the iPhone wasnt a world first in any area.
"mobile data is all about ..."
That's the 64billion dollar question, isn't it.
Is it about seeing the same internet as at home (or in the office), when you're on the move (nb on the move, *not* just away from base but stationary at a WiFi hotspot).
Or is it about the mobile web, about some selection of significant websites recognising that there are going to be as many folk viewing them on "mobile internet devices" (phones, PDAs, maybe netbooks) as there are on PCs, and that their website designs should reflect that (eg no Flash).
It isn't about "m-commerce" yet, or about "location dependent services", and folks have been trying that for a decade or so. Mind you, Google has recently changed the market rules, as it sometimes does, with Google Maps for Mobile and the things you can do with that.
Yahoo nearly works on my S60 mobile in Opera Mini. BBC news has a "low graphics" version too. Google Maps for Mobile is fantastic, though without a GPS it sometimes gets confused (but that's probably not Google's fault).
But not everyone does so well. Obviously anyone designing in Flash has wasted their time even more than usual. Some sites that you would imagine might be of particular interest to those out and about are so full of big-screen rubbish and scripts and so on that they are useless on a small screen device, mobile or otherwise. Classic examples would include weather forecasts from the Met Office and traffic reports from the Highways Agency.
So, what exactly is the killer app for mobile broadband? How is it going to make money for the cellcos, so they can pay for all that extra bandwidth to all those new cells?
I know, we could do location-dependent downloaded-on-demand high-definition video ringtone subscription service. Yeah, that'd work. Where's the Dragon's Den number.
Well? You got any better ideas?
Handset or PC?
To me the main reason that data on 2G/3G etc. has not really taken off is that most content is not suitable for a phone handset.
When WAP first came out, most web content was too complex and there were attempts to produce WAP portals which would offer cut down content suitable for the handsets.
At that point most web content would have displayed well on my EEE PC (if it had existed then).
Now content is so rich and so loaded with fancy video and special effects that I struggle on my EEE PC and my older portable to view the website in the way that the cutting edge design intended.
Nice on my new 1440 * 900 Dell portable, though :-)
Not much good on a phone handset :-(
For me, mobile data is all about freeing portable PCs from fixed ADSL/cable connections.
You can get the rich content you have come to expect when you are away from your cosy nest.
Now if only the coverage, reliability, bandwidth etc. etc. wasn't totally crap. (Speaking as a Virgin customer).
If I want to talk to someone or send a text message I use my phone.
For getting serious data off t'Internet I use a PC.
Then again, I am from the keyboard generation and can't think through my thumbs.