MMO2 Preps for HSDPA

mmO2 plc is gearing up to launch commercial HSDPA (High-Speed Downlink Packet Access) networks across Europe, with Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU) a potential contender for the vendor spoils.

HSDPA is a packet-based data service evolved from -- and backwards compatible with -- earlier Wideband-Code Division Multiple Access (W-CDMA) air interface standards, which offer realistic data transfer rates of around 300 to 400 kbit/s.

Used with standing W-CDMA networks, HSDPA-compliant handsets and base stations are touted to increase transfer rates to a maximum of 14.4 Mbit/s and an average of 3.6 Mbit/s -- at least in theory. HSDPA is a standardized feature in the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP)’s Release 5 specification, introduced in August 2002 (see Release 5 to the 3G Rescue).

Lucent and mmO2 today announced joint details of a small commercial deployment on the Isle of Man, a tiny island off the west coast of Britain with approximately 76,000 residents [ed. note: and an unknown number of cats with no tails]. The network is due for launch by summer 2005 (see Lucent Deploys Manx HSDPA).

The big news, however, is that the carrier plans to follow this project with larger launches in its primary markets. “We are also implementing it into our core networks in the U.K., Ireland, and Germany,” PR manager Simon Gordon tells Unstrung. A launch date of “later next year” is forecast [ed note: nice and specific, then].

No decision on a network supplier for such plans has yet been announced. Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) and Nortel Networks Ltd. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) are existing suppliers of mmO2’s W-CDMA networks across Europe and therefore remain strong candidates, but analysts believe Lucent also has the potential to secure a slice of the future business (see Nokia Cozies Up to O2 and Nortel Wins Expansion Deals).

“Nokia and Nortel both have 30 percent of mmo2’s 3G network share,” notes Gartner Inc.’s Jason Chapman. “MMO2 previously said they would hold the remaining 40 percent open, and Lucent certainly sees this as a way to get into this opportunity.”

Lucent itself is keeping its fingers crossed following today’s announcement and last week’s massive HSDPA deal with Cingular Wireless (see Lucent Grabs Cingular Action and Lucent Unveils HSDPA Kit).

“It’s a hard area for us to comment on,” says Ravi Rajagopolan, director of technologies and solutions at Lucent’s wireless division. “Any opportunity to do business with them we’ll be happy to take. We remain hopeful of extending our footprint with them.”

Meanwhile, mmO2’s Gordon was keen to stress that the carrier has already tested HSDPA kit from Nortel, but did not rule out a further future deployment with Lucent.

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung
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