Cingular HSDPA Goes Live

North America’s largest operator prepares for commercial launch of high-speed 3G, but no handsets until 2006

October 18, 2005

3 Min Read
Cingular HSDPA Goes Live

Vendors providing radio access equipment to Cingular Wireless LLC have today announced that America’s largest mobile operator has switched on its High Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) network in selected markets across the country.

The move confirms Cingular as having one of the most aggressive HSDPA rollout schedules in the world and underlines the importance of this technology to the evolution of 3G services.

In separate releases, Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU) said the 3G networks it had provided Phoenix and Seattle had been upgraded to support HSDPA, while Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERICY) said the network it had deployed in Fartworth/Dallas had also gone live.

Siemens AG (NYSE: SI; Frankfurt: SIE), Cingular’s third provider of 3G radio access systems, has yet to announce that any of the network it has deployed has gone live. This is likely because the Ericsson and Lucent announcements relate to upgrades of existing 3G systems originally deployed by AT&T Wireless prior to its acquisition by Cingular, whereas Siemens is expected to deliver “straight to HSDPA” equipment from the start, as the operator builds out its nationwide 3G footprint. (See Cingular Confirms 3G Trio.)

HSDPA works by increasing the amount of capacity and throughput 3G systems can deliver in a 5MHz radio channel to an anticipated average 400 to 700 kbit/s per user, with potential to burst to megabit speeds as networks mature. This is expected to drive down the cost-per-bit of 3G systems and have a dramatic impact on mobile data economics. (See Will the Real 3G Please Stand Up? and Insider: HSDPA 'Good Enough'.)

With plans to launch services over HSDPA in 15 to 20 markets by the end of 2005, Cingular’s 3G rollout was pegged in the most recent Unstrung Insider report -- Turbo 3G: High-Speed Packet Access Arrives -- as a flagship deployment that will be watched closely by operators worldwide.

“Several sources at suppliers close to the project say that this [15-20 markets schedule] is more of positioning statement and that they believe Cingular can launch a service to friendly users in this time frame, but it will not be able to launch true commercial services until some point in the first half of 2006,” says the report.

The report also notes Cingular itself does not expect handsets -- from Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC) and LG Electronics Inc. (London: LGLD; Korea: 6657.KS) -- until the first half of 2006. Cingular spokesperson Ritch Blasi today confirmed, however, that a commercial launch would occur in 2005 using laptop data cards from Novatel Wireless Inc. (Nasdaq: NVTL) and Sierra Wireless Inc. (Nasdaq: SWIR; Toronto: SW). “We’re poised to offer devices in the next six weeks,” he says.

“Cingular’s decision to go directly to HSDPA on such an aggressive schedule is, in part, related to a desire to fight back against the success Verizon Wireless has had with its EV-DO services, which offer downlink performance in the region of 500 kbit/s in many U.S. markets and has helped Verizon to emerge as the preferred brand for enterprise and wireless data services,” notes the Insider.

The rollout of HSDPA also goes hand-in-hand with the firm's implementation of convergence services using IMS, the first stage of which the operator announced yesterday. (See Cingular Picks Lucent for IMS.)— The Staff, Unstrung

The report, Turbo 3G: High-Speed Packet Access Arrives, is available as part of an annual subscription (12 monthly issues) to Unstrung Insider, priced at $1,350. Individual reports are available for $900.

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