Cingular EDGEs Out Rivals
EDGE is the next stepping stone on the path to third-generation cellular services, offering data transfer speeds around double that of a 56K modem. Cingular has so far only switched on the service in Indianapolis. However, Tony Carter, Cingular's senior PR manager, says the carrier will offer EDGE in a "handful" of markets by the end of this year.
EDGE is an enhancement to Cingular's global system for mobile communications (GSM) networks that increases data transfer rates to a theoretical 384 kbit/s. Cingular is promising its customers initial data transfer rates of 75 kbit/s to 135 kbit/s. "This will be optimized as we get to devices with newer coding schemes," says Carter.
Carter notes that because Cingular is already in the process of upgrading its network with a new GSM overlay (he says it will be 90 percent complete by the end of the year), moving to EDGE only requires a software upgrade on the network. This is the key to the appeal of EDGE for carriers -- it’s a quick, cheap fix compared with the option of a wholesale upgrade to 3G universal mobile telecommunications system (UMTS) networks (see 3G Go Slow ).
Carter says that Cingular is spending $1.3 billion this year on continuing GSM upgrades to its network. He anticipates that 10 percent of that capital expenditure will go towards EDGE updates.
LM Ericsson (Nasdaq: ERICY) is supplying the infrastructure for the Indianapolis launch. "They were ready," notes Carter. Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) and Siemens AG (NYSE: SI; Frankfurt: SIE) also have EDGE contracts with Cingular.
Apparently there is a technical reason for starting in Indianapolis. Cingular operates on two frequency bands in the U.S. -- 850 MHz and 1900 MHz -- and Indianapolis is one of the markets that straddles both bands. "We wanted somewhere that would allow us to test both," explains Carter. [Ed. note: Indiana is also shaped rather like a sock, which may or may not have been a determining factor.]
Major GSM rival AT&T Wireless says that it does plan to have some EDGE markets up and running by the end of the year (see AT&T Scales Back 3G). T-Mobile has EDGE contracts but no announced plans for service launches (see Nortel's $300M EDGE).
— Dan Jones, Senior Editor, Unstrung