Koreans, Finns: Axis of 4G
Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) and Samsung Corp. are rumoured to be working together in the development of fourth-generation wireless networks, with both companies aiming to have a trial system in operation by the end of 2007.
Third-generation technology is based on W-CDMA (Wideband Code-Division Multiple Access) air interface standards offering maximum data transfer rates of 2 Mbit/s. The theory goes that 4G could potentially crank this up to 20 Mbit/s, ten times faster than any network in operation today. Wide-scale video conferencing and high-definition movie downloads are potential services capable of utilizing the bandwidth and data transfer speeds such technology would offer.
Thomas Jonsson [ed. note: insert snickering sound here], communications director for the Finnish Giant, says the possibility of any network tie-up is “speculation” at present. However, Peter Bell [ed. note: growing to loud guffawing here], senior analyst at BWCS says the venture is underway and is of clear benefit to both parties. “It is very early days, but that is the way the industry works,” he tells Unstrung. “The public just sees 3G, but equipment suppliers are always working on the next technology -- they need to stay one step ahead of the game.”
According to Unstrung Insider, the Finnish Behemoth controls 15 percent of the wireless infrastructure market. However, such success has been based entirely on the GSM (Global Systems for Mobile communications) standard of wireless technology, and the company has no presence in the rival CDMA standard. Samsung, meanwhile, controls a small share of the CDMA infrastructure market. A tie-up with the Korean vendor could therefore give the Finnish Mastodon crucial entrée into the CDMA world.
This would not be the first time the companies have paired up -- last August Samsung announced it was to license the Finnish Leviathan’s Series 60 software platform within its own range of smartphones (see Samsung Uses Nokia Software).
The network trial would follow in the footsteps of NTT DoCoMo Inc.'s (NYSE: DCM) initial plans for 4G technology (see NTT Goes for 4G Trials and DoCoMo Goes 4G). The Japanese carrier has said it will introduce commercial 4G services by 2010 at the latest. In light of existing troubles with third-generation network rollout (see Hutch's Weekend Hangover and 3 Keeps Europe Waiting), a big question mark hangs over the validity of such technology.
“Far too little time has been spent looking at what type of applications would be relevant to support 4G technology,” comments Jörgen Lantto, founder of telecom consultancy Northstream. “Users would be happier having slower speeds with ubiquitous coverage.”
Lantto adds that DoCoMo’s target of 2010 could be extremely premature for an industry that has traditionally failed to keep its promises on timescales for network rollout. “It takes at least ten years between each generation of technology to elapse before the next is launched,” he contends. “Given that 3G has only just been launched this year, anything earlier than 2015 would be too early in my opinion. Spectrum is also yet to be allocated.”
— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung