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CDMA 450 Czechs In

Light Reading
LR Mobile News Analysis
Light Reading
3/23/2004

Global interest in the CDMA 450 market has kicked up a gear with Czech carrier Eurotel Praha spol. s.r.o.'s decision to roll out what is expected to be the industry’s first CDMA2000 1x EV-DO network operating in the 450MHz radio spectrum (see Eurotel Picks Nortel).

The market for CDMA 450 technology has experienced strong growth in recent months, with European and Asian carriers launching commercial networks based on the standard (see CDMA 450 Seeps Into Europe).

Deployed in frequency bands previously hosting analog Nordic Mobile Telephony (NMT) cellular systems, CDMA 450 belongs to the CDMA2000 family of technologies. But 450MHz signals yield a broader cell radius than networks running over 850-, 1800/1900-, or 2100-MHz systems, meaning up to 80 percent fewer base station sites are required for a given deployment.

Eurotel’s rollout of an EV-DO network at 450MHz will allow the carrier to offer data services of between 300 and 500 kbit/s. This is at least five times faster than current cellular networks (CDMA2000 1xRTT and GPRS -- see A Wireless Taxonomy for more detailed definitions).

Deploying data services in the 450MHz spectrum band is also considerably cheaper than rival offerings over 800 and 1900 MHz (see Verizon Has $692M for EV-DO). “Providing EV-DO data services over 450 MHz allows Eurotel to offer broadband mobility with fewer base stations and at a much lower level of capex,” opines Gartner Inc.’s Jason Chapman.

Network deployment is expected to be complete in this year's second quarter, with commercial services launching in May. Eurotel’s decision supports the recent flurry of vendor activity in this space, with Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU), Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT), Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd., and LM Ericsson (Nasdaq: ERICY) all touting product offerings (see Huawei Launches 3G Kit and Ericsson Adds to CDMA Portfolio).

Analysts are keen to play up the potential market impact of the rollout.

“This is big news indeed,” notes Ovum Ltd.’s Richard Dineen in an email to Unstrung. “We have seen deployments of CDMA2000 1x RTT 450MHz networks in Russia, Belarus, Moldova, and Romania. This latest development, however, is a step of an altogether different magnitude and will cause some consternation among the GSM community as well as rattling the cages of fixed broadband operators both in the Czech Republic and further afield.”

“EV-DO... could prove very valuable for CDMA 450 operators,” writes Peter Jarich of Current Analysis in a recent report. “Given the coverage of 450 MHz systems (almost twice that of 800 MHz), CDMA 1x data capacity is spread quite thinly over many users; the extra capacity of EV-DO is thus important to provide users with a good experience. At the same time, in the Eastern European countries where CDMA 450 has been successful, landline Internet access is likely to be spotty, making EV-DO an important access technology.”

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung

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