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Wireless Nets Suck, Says Expert

"Doing the floors" at the 3GSM event in Cannes last week, Unstrung bumped into a Man Called Rice. And he had some interesting thoughts on current developments in the world of mobility.

"There is no reason why any sane person would buy wireless data services," proclaims Rice Williams (honest), wireless network test division marketing manager at Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A).

Er, I pay for GPRS -- Does that mean I'm insane? "Yes," says Rice. OK. Why exactly?

Well, wireless networks (whether GPRS or CDMA2000) just aren't up to delivering data well enough to justify charging for it, he believes, and having tested networks all over the world, he says there's nothing to choose between them. None of them are any good at attaining decent quality-of-service levels. "They are uniformly terrible." Oh, get off the fence, man, and say what you think, why don't ya!

Prior to the Cannes event he tested all four U.K. GPRS networks -- O2 Ltd. (NYSE: OOM), Orange UK (London: OGE), T-Mobile (UK), and Vodafone UK -- for their ability to deliver a WAP file, an email, a Web page (html), and an FTP. That's whether a file arrived at all, irrespective of time taken. Although he would not (could not, he says) identify which network was which, the success rate for an FTP transfer across the networks ranged from 76 percent down to 35 percent. "These figures need to be between 90 and 100 percent," says Rice.

At the Cannes event he performed the same test across the GPRS networks available, with similar results. Such results, he says, are not encouraging for an industry looking at data services to give it a boost.

The problem, says Rice, is not in any one part of the chain: There are issues in the radio network, the core, the Internet, and with the service provider.

A major issue is the operators' inability to recognize anything is wrong. "They think their networks are working perfectly, and they are shocked to see such results," he says. It doesn't help, he adds, that the radio access and core networks are designed and managed by different teams that are not very good at communicating with each other.

Oh, the irony…

— Ray Le Maistre, European Editor, Unstrung

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