The development of enabling technologies for high speed mobile data access is accelerating: while the South African market has just recently been introduced to 3G, this represents just the first step towards an always-on, broadband mobile Internet. Greg Cress, senior account manager: End-to-End Solutions and 3G at Siemens Communications, says new data transport technologies are just around the corner.
"These technologies include HSDPA and WiMAX, the introduction of which will deliver Internet access at speeds that will rival ADSL to mobile devices," he says.
Cress says that HSDPA - or high speed downlink packet access - is to 3G what EDGE (enhanced data GSM environment) was to GPRS (generalised packet radio services).
"GPRS and EDGE essentially represent the so-called 2,5G network; they are innovations based on the GSM standard that was initially designed to support voice traffic only. As the need for mobile data emerged, the GSM frequency, designed for circuit-switched voice traffic was adapted to deliver packet-based services."
Cress says that this means just considering wireless networks conceptually similar to the Internet, where information is transmitted on a 'packet-switched' basis.
"That means breaking down the data into tiny pieces and sending them off over the network to be reassembled at the point of reception," he says.
3G is a packet-based network that delivers considerably more bandwidth than previous mobile connections. It has just recently been launched into the local market, and offers a data transfer rate of around 384 Kbps.
"HSDPA, which has been publicly demonstrated by Siemens at the recent 3GSM World Conference, boosts that transfer rate to up to peak rates of 14 Mbps, representing a dramatic improvement on 3G," says Cress.
He adds that the beauty of HSDPA is that it is a software upgrade, so existing 3G base stations supplied by Siemens since 2002 can be upgraded at a very low cost to deliver the improved bandwidth, and consumers will need an upgraded HSDPA-compliant data card to make use of the service.
"The low cost means existing 3G users can very soon look forward to a massively improved service at a very low additional cost," he states.
For its part, WiMAX development is expected to deliver products to market in 2006. WiMAX is a high speed mobile data transfer network that is expected to complement existing technologies such as 3G and HSDPA for specific niche applications.
"WiMAX is likely to be used to deliver broadband data to the enterprise and to underserved areas as it is not as mobile as HSDPA," says Cress. "Instead, it is likely to be used to provide nomadic high speed data access to residential users, while other back-end self-provisioning applications by operators are also possible."
For more information contact Sharon Schön, Siemens Communications, +27 (0)12 678 2751.