Bouygues Mulls EDGE Rollout
An enhancement to existing GSM networks, an EDGE software upgrade can increase data throughput to 384 kbit/s [ed. note: Yeah right, with a strong wind behind it], employing the same network infrastructure and spectrum as existing 2G technologies.
The French carrier remains tight-lipped over specifics, but spokeswoman Christel Lerouge admits that it is “studying carefully this technology because it has a lot of advantages.”
The Red Lady cites several benefits of EDGE technology over existing GSM networks, most notably “enhanced transmission speed for GPRS [General Packet Radio Service] data services, flexible rollout and network continuity,” as well as the expected availability of EDGE-compatible handsets in 2004.
Lerouge claims that Bouygues is yet to confirm which equipment vendors have been selected for any planned rollout, declining to comment on the possibility of its current suppliers -- Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) and LM Ericsson (Nasdaq: ERICY) -- taking a further piece of the action (see Nortel Wins at Bouygues and Modest in Victory).
Any planned launch would certainly be a welcome boost in light of the carrier’s disappointing market performance. The operator currently trails rivals Orange France (Paris: OGE) and SFR in the race for subscriber share in France. Research house EMC puts Bouygues at a 15.8 percent market share as of the end of September this year, way behind second place SFR (36 percent) and clear leader Orange (48.2 percent).
Bouygues joins fellow European carriers TeliaSonera AB (Nasdaq: TLSN), O2 Ireland, and Telecom Italia Mobile SpA (TIM) (Milan: TIM) in expressing serious interest in deploying EDGE technology (see Europe Gets an EDGE ). TeliaSonera plans to become the first carrier this side of the Atlantic to launch an EDGE network, with Finland’s capital city Helsinki primed for activation by the end of this year.
TIM meanwhile has confirmed its intention to launch EDGE services commercially in the first quarter of 2004. In an interview today with French newspaper Les Echos, managing director Mauro Sentinelli revealed the network will cover three-quarters of Italy by the end of next year and the entire country by the close of 2005.
This month’s Unstrung poll aims to examine the true potential of this technology. Have your say at EDGE: On the Brink of Success?.
— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung