Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Will WiMAX compete with 3G+



Various reports and discussions have started trying to compare WiMAX and HSPA/LTE and also justifying why WiMAX is better or vice versa. so will WiMAX compete with 3G+? To answer this problem lets go back to the beginning of 3G.

NTT DoComo launched the worlds first 3G system which it called as FOMA. Infact before FOMA it already had i-Mode available which was a revolutionary technology of its time. So instead of being so great and revolutionary, why was it not adopted by everyone. The answer is that it was a closed technology and not an open standard.

WiMAX is comparatively an open standard. Its Specifications are not available freely as is 3G. This gives 3G a definite advantage over WiMAX. Also 3G+ (which includes HSPA, HSPA+, LTE, MIMO, etc) has evolved from 3G which has in turn evolved from GSM. There is an inbuilt facility to move between 3G/GSM and perform Handovers, etc. This would be missing in WiMAX.

You may argue that once IMS is there, these problems wont be big as IMS would allow these handovers to take place. IMS is access agnostic. The problem is that it will take time for IMS to be adopted and for it to be completely functional. When this happens, by that time LTE would already be available. LTE uses the same Radio Technology as WiMAX and since it has evolved ffrom 3G/GSM, it would definitely be preferrred over WiMAX.

There was an article in Financial Express last week comparing WiMAX and 3G. Some important points from that:

But from what we do know, 3G/HSPA has several clear advantages vis-à-vis mobile WiMAX in terms of backward compatibility, standardisation, use of licensed spectrum and availability of infrastructure and terminals giving it an edge over WiMAX in terms of large scale economies leading to better affordability, availability, scalability and overall ruggedness of the 3G/HSPA standard. Further, the pace of adoption of HSPA has been remarkable. HSPA is already commercially available in Africa, America, Asia, Australia, the European Union and the Middle East. There is thus already a large ecosystem of global suppliers of components, subsystems, equipment and network design and implementation services in place for 3G/HSPA.

WiMAX on the other hand faces a number of challenges. Mobile WiMAX standards are still under evaluation. The capex for deploying WiMAX is upto 5-10 times higher than HSDPA because the size of mobile WiMax cells is upto 16 times smaller than the cells in an HSPA system, which would necessitate a larger number of base stations to cover the same geography.

Further, the prices of mobile WiMAX handsets as and when available, will be significantly higher than the cellular terminals, which are being developed in much higher volumes and offered at increasingly lower costs. Also WiMax has fragmented frequency bands. In Europe and the United States, WiMAX operates in 3.5GHz and 5.8GHz while in Asia Pacific it operates in 2.3, 2.5, 3.33 and 5.8GHz. This makes global or even pan-regional roaming rather difficult. Users visiting different countries will have to either hope that the visited country uses the same band or have their devices equipped with multiple modes to enable connectivity to other WiMAX based broadband networks. WiMAX systems also have a lower capacity for voice vis-à-vis 3G/HSPA networks, which will limit the potential market size that WiMAX can cater to.

Arthur D. Little and Altran Telecoms & Media have also produced a report for GSM Association comparing HSPA and Mobile WiMax for Mobile Broadband Wireless Access (MBWA). According to them:

HSPA is likely to account for the majority of investment in global mobile broadband networks over the next five years, finds a new study by Arthur D. Little. By comparison mobile WiMax will be a niche technology within the overall
global mobile broadband wireless access market, likely to account for at most 15% of this network equipment market and perhaps 10% of mobile broadband wireless subscribers by 2011-2012.

HSDPA (including HSUPA and HSPA+) is taking the lead as it is a natural migration path for a large number of GSM and UMTS operators already operating commercial networks in 3G spectrum. This will give rise to significant economies
of scale on handsets and user devices and a large ecosystem of global suppliers of components, subsystems, equipment and network design and implementation services. Hence this is the least risky and best understood route to offering broadband mobile services which can offer speeds comparable to first generation fixed DSL services.

According to a report in Broadband Wireless Exchange Magazine:

The results of Arthur D. Little's modeling work shows that WiMax systems are expected to achieve significantly greater theoretical peak data transfer rates when deployed than today's commercial HSPA networks deliver now, such as theoretical speeds of e.g. 16.8 Mbps in urban areas vs 2-3 Mbps for HSPA. However, the coverage a WiMax base station can achieve, is substantially lower than HSPA, hence HSPA operators will be able to deploy a smaller number of base stations and sites to cover the same geography. Indications are that radio access network capex for current WiMax technology can significantly exceed HSDPA capex.

Another consequence of this characteristic of these two technologies is that an HSPA operator will be able to match its growing investment more clearly to the development of demand than mobile WiMax operators who will have to install more cell sites at the beginning to ensure coverage.

Arthur D. Little acknowledges that in the longer term, well into the second decade of this century, mobile broadband wireless systems will be characterized by technologies such as OFDMA and MIMO. Development of these technologies is being pursued by the 3G/HSPA ecosystem within the framework of 3G LTE as well as by WiMax. The long term future relative roles of 3G LTE and mobile WiMax, both of which face major development hurdles before they achieve the full promise of new, so-called 4G systems, is uncertain and will be influenced by continuing expected shifts in the priorities and competitive alignments of major players in the wireless industry which has undergone a number of consolidations in recent months.

In contrast to many other reports on HSPA, mobile WiMax and other broadband wireless technologies, the Arthur D. Little study highlights and assesses all the factors - strategic, competitive, commercial, regulatory and political as well as technological that influence operators' choices of wireless network technology.

Evidence for the potential complementary nature of HSPA and WiMax can be seen in the increased interest in multi-mode user devices and roaming capabilities across the technologies. This development, which reflects the widespread anticipation of the central role of OFDMA and other technologies involved in WiMax and 3G LTE in all eventual future broadband wireless networks, is a welcome change from the provocative and misleading headlines that have appeared over the past two years which imply that mobile WiMax threatens the viability of today's HSPA and related technologies

With Intel promising WiMAX chips on all its laptops in future, only time will tell how far WiMAX will and if this comparison holds true.

Saturday, 9 June 2007

Cellular Multi-Mode Madness












At the moment you can get most places with UMTS2100 including limited coverage on Vodafone NZ. The future looks a lot more difficult. With the Telecom announcement today NZ will be getting what is called an E-GPRS network operating at 850MHz. This will offer GSM/GPRS/EDGE. For real 3G as in HSDPA you will still need 2100MHz but as we all know this frequency is limited in what it can offer in terms of coverage and in-building penetration.



It has been rumored that Vodafone are trialling a UMTS900 network in NZ which certainly makes sense. With this 3G band Vodafone needs 60% less cells sites for the same coverage footprint currently offered on their UMTS2100 network. They can also use the same antennas and feeders currently used for GSM900 but the downside is that they will need to give up at least 2.6MHz of their existing GSM spectrum to act as a guard band between GSM and UMTS. It doesn't sound like much but it does cut into voice capacity.



UMTS900 is very new and only this year have the first tests calls been completed in Europe. Being new means a lack of devices which is a similar position Telstra found themselves in with their NextG network. NextG operates at 850MHz but this is UMTS (HSDPA) and not the same as the Telecom E-GPRS network. Same frequency different technology.



Over the last year more and more data devices have been appearing to support UMTS850. These devices are tri-mode as in they support UMTS850/1900/2100MHz so they work on Telstra (850), Cingular (850/1900) and the 'rest of the world' (2100).



In NZ Vodafone is adding a new spin by playing with UMTS900. At this stage there are no UMTS850/900/2100MHz devices and I am not sure what (if any) radio issues will be faced with building such a product. Given that UMTS900 has been trialled in Europe and that 900 is the dominant global GSM band it is quite feasible that 900/2100MHz will rule supreme with 850/1900MHZ relegated to side frequencies operating in different pockets around the world. Although, as voice usage grows carriers are running out of 900MHz spectrum. But then again they could also choose UMTS800 (not to be confused with UMTS850) and IP Wireless (the company that supplies technology to Woosh) is tinkering with UMTS450 which has traditionally been used for CDMA450. On top of that we have UMTS1700, UMTS2600, UMTS1800 and now talk of UMTS2500.




Will add some more details on this soon.


Wednesday, 6 June 2007

IMT Advanced = 4G



In this story on Telecom TV, is says:

Working under a mandate to address "systems beyond 3G", the working party has now come up with a name for the future mobile systems. Thankfully, they are veering away from 4G and are calling it 'IMT-Advanced'.

A simple search on Google returned some useful information from Telecom ABC:

International Mobile Telecommunications - Advanced (IMT-Advanced) is a concept from the ITU for mobile communication systems with capabilities which go further than that of IMT-2000. IMT-Advanced was previously known as “systems beyond IMT-2000”.


It is foreseen that the development of IMT-2000 will reach a limit of around 30 Mbps. In the vision of the ITU, there may be a need for a new wireless access technology to be developed around the year 2010 capable of supporting even higher data rates with high mobility, which could be widely deployed around the year 2015 in some countries. The new capabilities of these IMT-Advanced systems are envisaged to handle a wide range of supported data rates according to economic and service demands in multi-user environments with target peak data rates of up to approximately 100 Mbit/s for high mobility such as mobile access and up to approximately 1 Gbit/s for low mobility such as nomadic/local wireless access.


To support this wide variety of services, it may be necessary for IMT-Advanced to have different radio interfaces and frequency bands for mobile access for highly mobile users and for new nomadic/local area wireless access.


Together with the introduction of the name IMT-Advanced, the ITU introduced the generic root name IMT. The generic root name IMT covers the capabilities of IMT-2000, including future development of IMT-2000, and IMT-Advanced.

Meanwhile a story in ChinaTechNews is suggesting that Datang Telecom has already written a Draft on 4G and is working on 3G&4G convergence. Cannot find much more on this right now.

For more on 4G technologies, either read this story on Network World or 3G4G website.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Things our phone will do in next 10 years



Interesting article in Cnet on "10 things your mobile will do in next 10 years"

1. Wallet: This would be quite cool when available. Have been hearing about this for years now. Apparently very popular in Japan and S.Korea where people are not using credit cards anymore and instead using Phones.

A much better idea would be to have a universal recognition kind of chip which i can use as Credit card, Smart Card for Trains (In london we have Oyester cards) and then i can use this for accessing company door, garage door , etc. This would be a real killer app but doesnt look like will happen in near (or far) future

2. Internet: In December, ABI Research said that almost 50 million people used social-networking sites on their mobile phones. That number is expected to grow to 174 million by 2011. It would be cool to be able to browse using your phone. Mosst of the sites i use (including mine) are not mobile friendly and this is the thing that is turning people off the net.

3. Location: Already too many phones supporting GPS and A-GPS. The chips are becoming cheaper with cost of around $5 so the manufacturers should have no problem. In future we will get disscounted packages where we will have to receive adverts which would be location specific. Nokia has some applications which can compete with TomTom for getting directions, etc.

4. Search: Hardly anything needs to be mentioned for this.

5. TV: Have written enough on Mobile TV already. IMS Research forecasts that by 2011 there will be more than 30 million mobile TV subscribers in the United States. The firm also predicts that almost 70 million handsets capable of receiving mobile TV will be shipped in the U.S. in 2011.

6. Simplified surfing: From the Cnet article

Ever notice how many clicks it takes to find the one thing you're looking for on your phone? It's worse than counting how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop. But handset makers and mobile operators are
hard at work trying to make phones easier to navigate and simpler to use.


The upcoming
iPhone from Apple is a perfect example of how user interfaces will be improved. Apple fans are confident that the company has come up with another slick and intuitive
design, just as it did for the iPod.


One aspect of the iPhone's interface that has been publicized is its use of sensory technology to detect when the device is rotated. This allows the phone to automatically render pictures on the screen in portrait (vertical) or landscape (horizontal) format. That allows the user to determine which format is best for viewing whatever is on the screen, be
it a Web page, video, or photo.


In the future,
motion-sensing technology, similar to that used in the Nintendo Wii game console, will also allow people to navigate their cell phone menus or the mobile Internet
with a flick of their wrists.


But motion sensing is just one piece of the puzzle. Operators such as Verizon Wireless are redesigning their content menus
to reduce the number of clicks users must endure to find what they want. Ryan Hughes, vice president of digital media programming for Verizon Wireless, said he believes that user interfaces will be customizable so that users can decide
for themselves which applications will be displayed on their phones most prominently.


Motorola is already offering a customizable interface on the
Razr 2, which the company claims will make searching for contacts, accessing applications, and messaging much easier.

7. Brainier radios: Maybe in future SDRs (Software Defined Radios) may become more common and popular and yes the technology will become feasible. Also multiple radios on the chpset would mean Handovers will be possible from 3G to WiMax, Wifi, etc.

8. Personal Cell: Everyone seems to be talking of Femtocell. Where we will have a small 3G base station in our home. We could use it for Voice or High Speed data. No need for the POTS and use mobile for everything. This will still take some time as the operators dont fully understand the benefits of offering cheap data.

9. Perfect Camera: Today roughly 41 percent of American households own a camera phone. In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to buy a phone today that doesn't have a camera. By 2010 more than 1 billion mobile phones in the world will ship with an embedded camera, up from the 589 million camera phones that are expected to be sold in 2007, according to market research firm Gartner.

10. More music on the phone: Mobile phone users around the globe are expected to spend $32.2 billion on music for their handsets by 2010, up from $13.7 billion in 2007, according to Gartner. This can only happen when Music Video/Audio becomes cheaper though. Personally i would prefer listening to FM Radio rather than music but i am not sure how much demand there would be and ofcourse the operators dont gain anything.

Monday, 4 June 2007

Mobile TV in Top Ten of mobile services


In a report published by Analysis, the global advisers on telecoms, IT and media, Mobile TV shows up in the Top ten most used non voice services on mobile phones.
This new report identifies the top ten services from a large number of non-voice services worldwide, and provides detailed case studies and analysis of these leading services to help others replicate their success. The report provides unique guidance to mobile operators (as well as MVNOs and third party service providers) on the best opportunities to increase their non-voice service revenues.
1. Vodafone’s Casa FASTWEB DSL service (Italy)
2. O2’s SMS service (UK)
3. 3’s 3G mobile TV and video streaming service (UK)
4. T-Mobile’s BlackBerry email and instant messaging service (USA)
5. Sprint Nextel’s CDMA2000 EV-DO Revision A mobile broadband service (USA)
6. 3’s DVB-H mobile TV broadcasting service (Italy)
7. KDDI au’s EZ Chaku-uta Full music downloading service (Japan)
8. SK Telecom’s Cyworld Mobile community portal service (South Korea)
9. NTT DoCoMo’s DCMX mobile credit service (Japan)
10. Vodafone’s MiniCall ‘voice SMS’ service (Egypt)
Mobile TV services are a key element of the 3G service mix that has enabled 3 UK to claim non-voice ARPU of more than USD25 per month, which is currently the highest in the world”, says Dr Mark Heath, co-author of the report.

“In Italy, mobile TV subscribers of 3’s DVB-H service generate 60% higher ARPU than its other mobile customers. While some mobile TV services, such as Virgin Mobile’s DAB-IP service in the UK, are making slow progress, 3 shows that it is possible to make a short-term success of mobile TV.”

Saturday, 2 June 2007

Mobile TV and MBMS will co exist

Someone brought my attention towards a Digitimes article where some people from Israel-based mobile chip designer Siano Mobile Silicon are talking about Mobile TV and MBMS. Some of the interesting points below.

Q: And what about multicast?

A: (Jashek) Again, multicast will end up placing a strain on the system bandwidth. The current MBMS (Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Service) capacity is limited to 2Mb/sec, while a broadcast system will provide bandwidth of 16-32Mb/sec, which is the bandwidth needed to support about 20 channels. Upgrading any existing cellular network so that it supports MBMS at 15-20Mbps (while not hurting the voice capabilities of the network) requires an investment that is by far larger than building a good mobile TV broadcast system.

We believe video-over-cellular services such as MBMS will continue to exist, but will gradually focus on “on demand” services, while actual mobile TV services will use a broadcast platform.
(Raab) Content will be broadcast to users, but users will be involved in the content, such as in programs that involve voting. And the way to create profits from this is to get more people involved in the service and bundling services to increase the amount of data that is going through the network, but in such a way that it does not strain the system.


Q: But who will build the broadcast infrastructure? Do you expect broadcasters and cellcos to be competitors or partners?

A: (Jashek) Most operators are facing the question of whether they should invest themselves or whether they should partner with a broadcaster to develop the infrastructure. In Italy, Telecom Italia Mobile (TIM) has deployed a mobile TV service where it is the service provider, even though Mediaset (a broadcaster) built the primary broadcast infrastructure. On the other hand, 3-Italia have made their own investment into a DVB-H network, and they enjoy a very good attach rate.

In the US, Qualcomm's subsidiary MediaFLO has solved this dilemma for the operators by building the network itself. The only thing Verizon or Cingular had to do was sign a contract with Qualcomm and offer the service.

Thus, different models exist. The relationship between broadcasters and cellcos will be one of the key issues affecting the success of mobile TV in the future. Most broadcasters already have the spectrum, as well as the content. They are currently using that for analog terrestrial TV, but in the future it will be used for digital mobile TV. However, cellcos already have a network that supports interactive programming. They also have an infrastructure in place for service and billing.

The question is how well can cellcos and broadcasters get along. What TIM has done, is take revenues from its mobile TV service and split it evenly with the broadcaster. In the future, we expect to see a similar type of model where broadcasters focus on broadcast services and operators focus on interacting with the customer.

Q: You mentioned that current analog TV spectrum will be allocated to mobile TV in the future. Can you add more color to that statement and explain how that will affect the development of the mobile TV market?

A: (Jashek) I should note that the development of mobile TV will go hand in hand with the migration of terrestrial analog TV to digital TV. For example, if you look at the DVB standard (DVB-T for terrestrial TV and DVB-H for mobile TV), which will be the DTV standard deployed in the most markets worldwide, currently about 30 countries have DVB-T networks, while another 30 will join in one to three years. Once the DVB-T networks are in place, you will see huge growth in DVB-H support because it does not take much investment to add DVB-H support to a DVB-T network.

Getting back to your specific question, a lot of countries have allocated spectrum to mobile TV on a temporary basis. Once governments start turning off their analog services in 2010, that spectrum will be allocated to mobile TV on a more permanent basis, and you will see a big jump in the size of the market.

We expect to see 120-130 million mobile TV users worldwide by 2010, with DVB-H being the number one platform. By 2012-2013 when more markets switch off their analog services, we expect to see 300-400 million people enjoying broadcast mobile TV.


Q: As you mentioned, DVB-H will be deployed in the most markets, however the global mobile TV market remains fragmented. Can you comment on the implications of how such a fragmented global market might affect the development of mobile TV?

A: (Raab) Obviously, with the huge expected size of the mobile TV market, a lot of different organizations would like to have a piece of the pie. Hence, a number of broadcast mobile TV technologies have been developed. Eventually, economy of scales will not allow more than about four technologies to survive in large volumes. It looks like the partitioning will be geographical.
(Jashek) DVB-H has its stronghold in Europe, where it was originally pushed by local players such as Nokia and Philips, and where DVB-T, the "mother" of DVB-H, has strong momentum. We have no doubt that DVB-H will dominate mobile TV in Europe, and DVB-T will also be supported on some hand-held devices. DVB-H is also expected to be the dominant standard in Southeast Asia – Taiwan, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia – and the Pacific Rim. In countries with vast rural areas, such as Russia or Canada, we expect that, around 2010-2011, DVB-H will be unified with DVB-SH (the satellite version of DVB-H). This will optimize the coverage with respect to the infrastructure investment required.


MediaFLO seems to be the winner in North America, although we would not be surprised if DVB-H will also be deployed there.

In Japan, as well as Brazil and a couple other South American countries, ISDB-T will dominate. And South Korea will continue with its T-DMB for some time, although being the only nation to have large-scale deployment of this standard will make it difficult for Korea to maintain it for many years. In China, the homegrown standard known as CMMB (S-TIMI) will be the main platform for mobile TV.

(Raab) Another thing to remember is that not only are the standards fragmented but so is spectrum support.

With the big picture being so unclear, device makers are looking for help to develop a solution that fits as many markets as possible. That’s why three years ago Siano came up with the concept of a multi-standard and multi-band mobile TV chip solution.

Our chips currently support the DVB-H/T, DAB and T-DMB standards, as well as covering the VHF, UHF, L1 (1450-1490MHz) and L2 (1660-1680MHz) spectrums. In addition, we will very soon have ISDB-T supported, while CMMB and MediaFLO are also on our roadmap. We are members of the CMMB working group, and the FLO Forum.


Q: Several mobile TV trials have been hampered by a lack of handset support, why is that?

A: (Raab) Handset makers need to digest and endorse a new technology – new types of antennas, receiver chips, software, etc. This is not easy. Some of the first few DVB-H phones were bulky, use antennae that were too long (making them unacceptable for most users), and have a reception sensitivity that was not that great.



The above diagram is from a Vodafone presentation ( Mobile TV from pure Broadcast to Interactivity, 19th Oct 2006 ). It shows how Mobile TV technologies will coexist with MBMS and the traditional unicast services

Thursday, 31 May 2007

HSUPA - Ready for Rollout

There were two news items on HSUPA this month that caught my attention. The first was about SK Telecom in Korea.

SK Telecom Co. is preparing to launch a high-speed uplink packet access (HSUPA) service, according to a report from The Korea Herald. This mobile technology has enhanced data upload capabilities, theoretically allowing up to 5.76Mbps in upload and 14.4Mbps in download speeds. Its predecessor can only carry an upload rate of up to 2Mbps.

The South Korean carrier will launch the HSUPA service in selected areas in Busan next month (June), the report said, with expansion planned for Seoul and satellite cities early next year. SK Telecom plans to retail 2Mbps-level HSUPA USB modems as early as October.

....

Nearly 237,065 subscribers have signed up for the 3G+ service out of the carrier's 20.66 million cellphone users as of May 13 this year.

The other was HSUPA tested by Orange Romania:

Orange Romania says that it has successfully conducted its first HSUPA tests, a technology providing high speed for data uplink, up to 1.92 Mbps. The first tests with Huawei technology were carried out in Slatina and enabled the first data call using HSUPA technology (High Speed Uplink Packet Access). The average uplink speed for sending 10 MB files 10 times, with a single user and good radio conditions, was 1.1 Mbps. Similar test results were produced when working with two users and good radio conditions.

Orange Romania has already announced the launch of the HSUPA technology before the end of this year.

In June, Orange customers from 10 cities shall have access to high speed mobile internet through HSDPA, with a downloading speed of up to 3.6 Mbps. By the end of the year, the speed for internet connection and mobile data transfer through HSDPA shall be increased to 7.2 Mbps. Orange has deployed HSDPA networks in France, UK, Spain and Slovakia.

Lets hope that when HSUPA is rolled out, the phones are ready and more important the Application Developers and the users are ready.

3G -> 3.9G


There seems to be confusion when people discuss terms like 3.5G, 3.75G so i decided to define them. I am sure people who have objections will comment.
Lets first start with 2G systems:
2G = GSM
2.5G = GPRS
2.75G = EDGE
Then moving onto 3G systems:
3G = WCDMA, R99 (i am not looking at other technologies but similar mapping will apply)
3.5G = HSDPA
3.75G = HSUPA
3.8G = HSPA+ (HSPA Enhancements)
3.85G = 'HSPA+' + MIMO
3.9G = LTE
4G = NOT WiMAX

Monday, 28 May 2007

More 4G and WiMax



In a recent article in EE Times, the author is stressing that "Mobile WiMax opportunities will be the next big growth engine for personal broadband and next-generation cell phone networking equipment vendors and for the communications industry in general". A good point raised though is that there are many people who have comitted to WiMax:



In US, global communications carriers like Sprint have announced plans to deploy large-scale mobile WiMax services by mid-2008. In some cases, entire countries have committed to WiMax as their fourth-generation standard of choice. Two such examples are Korea, with the early WiBro predecessor to mobile WiMax, and Taiwan, with the "M-Taiwan" national initiative.

What other thing the author is trying to stress is that WiMax is 4G but i do not agree.

Sony Ericsson is another high profile name that recently announced joining of WiMax forum. According to MacNN, no hardware updates or new products have been announced, but it's likely that Sony-Ericsson will begin to upgrade their products to take advantage of faster speeds.

According to another article in ARN today:

Unlike 3G, no specific standards spell out what a 4G service, network or technology is today. Analysts say these specifications are to come, but today "4G is more of a marketing idea," says Phil Redman, a research vice president at Gartner.

There is a mobile WiMAX standard -- the IEEE's 802.16e standard -- on which Sprint Nextel is basing its US$3 billion investment. But Redman says mobile WiMAX is not 4G, "although the WiMAX folks would love for that label to catch on."
Still, WiMAX and other technologies may be part of a forthcoming 4G specification. "There's no doubt that existing technologies like WiMax and other technologies such as [Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access] and [multiple input multiple output] will be included in 4G," Redman says. "But no one technology will be 4G."

"These things tend to run in 10-year cycles," Redman says. "2G came out in 1995, 3G in 2004. There will not be a 4G standard before 2015."
In the meantime, a number of players have attempted to spell out what 4G should look like. The World Wireless Research Forum (WWRF) says 4G will run over an IP infrastructure, interoperate with Wi-Fi and WiMAX, and support fast speeds from 100Mbps to as high as 1Gbps.

It's also key that next-generation wireless includes QoS metrics and the ability to prioritize traffic, says Lisa Pierce, a vice president at consulting firm Forrester Research. "Lack of prioritization is preventing businesses from using current EV-DO services as their primary data connection."

WWRF expects 4G will be a collection of technologies and protocols, not just one single standard. That's similar to 3G, which today includes many technologies such as GSM and CDMA that meet specific criteria.

To help move the standards process along, WWRE -- whose members include Ericsson, Huawei Technologies and Motorola -- contributes to standards work done within groups such as the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the group that defined 3G wireless specifications, and the IETF.

4G's predecessor, 3G wireless, is still taking off. The fourth-largest wireless-service provider, T-Mobile,launched its 3G network this year. So if 3G is just getting going, what does that mean for 4G?

Opinions on when 4G services might be available differ. The Next Generation Mobile Networks (NGMN) group says commercial services beyond 3G could launch as early as 2010. KPN Mobile, Orange, Sprint, T-Mobile International, Vodafone, China Mobile and NTT DoCoMo make up NGMN. The goal of the group, similar to the WWRF, is to work with standards bodies in developing next-generation specifications.

But if standards don't come before 2015, as Gartner's Redman predicts, true 4G services could come only after 2015.

Qualcomm and Healthcare


Qualcomm is diversifying its portfolio by starting a MVNO focussed on healthcare. An article that appeared on Wireless Week has some interesting information on this.
Qualcomm is preparing to launch a standalone mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) company focused on healthcare, although designed to have a broad consumer appeal.

The new company, which was incorporated recently under the name LifeComm, was created by Qualcomm and several other, unnamed, partners. Don Jones, who is vice president of business development for QUALCOMM's' health and life sciences unit, says the MVNO likely will launch commercially sometime in the second half of 2008.

Although the MVNO will have a healthcare focus, Jones says it plans to have applications and services designed to help consumers maintain their personal health as well as more specialized medical uses.
"We don't see it as just health care," he says, because the MVNO also will offer services for wellness, fitness, and health maintenance.

The specific applications and services the MVNO will offer have not been determined, but Jones says the company wants to establish a brand known to provide services for anyone interested in his or her health. The target audience, he says, is predominantly going to be women ages 40 to 65 because they are "influencers" when it comes to health.

Services could involve fitness, weight management or reduction, diabetes management, and monitoring heart health, including hypertension and congestive heart disease.

LifeComm already is talking to handset manufacturers about designing phones with consumer appeal but with the capability of linking to the MVNO's special applications and services, Jones says. One of the plans is to have handsets that would create a personal area network that could communicate with medical devices such as heart and blood pressure monitors. They also could connect to consumer devices like pedometers. Some of Qualcomm's partners in the MVNO are medical device manufacturers.

Jones also talks about using innovative devices like "wireless Band-Aids," which stick to the skin and monitor some bodily functions. Such devices are in use now for mobile health care, as well as wireless pacemakers, remote electrocardiograms and wireless blood glucose meters.

LifeComm expects to close on a bridge loan in the next few weeks to provide initial funding as a separate company. Jones says the company will then start pulling together an executive team and will do additional market research.

LifeComm has an agreement with a CDMA wireless carrier to provide network services for the MVNO, although Jones says he cannot announce which carrier. He did say the MVNO expects to use Qualcomm's BREW platform, which is the platform used by Verizon Wireless. The MVNO also will use assisted-GPS for location services.

This isn't the first time that Qualcomm has spun off a separate company to take advantage of technology it has developed. The latest example was MediaFLO USA , which is building a nationwide network for mobile broadcast TV services.