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3G/HSPA

Dialog Talks Up HSPA+

Dialog Telekom , Sri Lanka's largest mobile operator with more than 5.5 million customers, is the latest carrier to trial next-generation wireless technology HSPA+, with voice efficiencies and mobile data applications requirements the key driver behind its move.

The trial began two weeks ago in Columbo, the nation's capital, and is set to continue for another couple of months. During this period, Dialog -- the first operator in South Asia, and the first from an emerging market, to puts HSPA+ through its paces -- will expand coverage to other areas and assess the benefits that increased speed gives to its existing service portfolio, says Supan Weerasinghe, the CEO of Dialog Mobile.

HSPA+, also known as evolved HSPA, has a headline data rate of 21 Mbit/s. However, the primary focus of this trial is real-world throughput speed, which is considerably slower than the top-end rate. For example, simulations carried out by SoftBank Mobile Corp. in Japan calculated a throughput rate of 6.2 Mbit/s on a 5 MHz channel.

The trial is being conducted with Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. which, along with Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) and ZTE Corp. (Shenzhen: 000063; Hong Kong: 0763), supplies the infrastructure for Dialog's standing 3G/HSPA network.

The trial is part of a technology evolution strategy that has seen Dialog deploy 3G, HSPA, and WiMax capabilities during the past three years. This may seem like overkill, but Dialog draws a clear distinction between the ways it's using WiMax and 3G/HSPA.

"Dialog has adopted WiMax 16d as a method of providing fixed Broadband Wireless Access to enterprise users, whilst HSPA is deployed as a mobile broadband offering targeted at the retail/household markets," Weerasinghe tells Light Reading Asia. This concentration on HSPA for the consumer market may well explain Dialog's interest in moving quickly to HSPA+, as data-hungry Internet applications will quickly eat up capacity.

However, unlike other HSPA+ operators -- Hong Kong CSL Ltd. , StarHub in Singapore, and Telstra Corp. Ltd. (ASX: TLS; NZK: TLS) in Australia -- voice growth remains a priority for Dialog. (See CSL Launches HSPA+, StarHub, Huawei Launch HSPA+ Net, and Telstra Pushes HSPA Limits.)

Sri Lanka has a mobile penetration of just over 60 percent, while 3G penetration stood just shy of 4 percent, and HSPA at 1.5 percent, at the end of the first quarter, according to Wireless Intelligence .

Previously, Dialog's Group Chief Executive, Dr. Hans Wijayasuriya, has stated that Dialog used the voice efficiencies of 3G/HSPA to offer lower-cost voice services. HSPA+ improves voice efficiencies to an even greater extent, and so can be used to launch further low-cost voice service offerings.

In the longer term, Wijayasuriya expects demand for mobile broadband services in Sri Lanka to follow the usual hockey-stick growth curve, with 50 percent of Dialog's users set to have 3G handsets within the next three years and the vast majority of mobile traffic flowing through its 3G/HSPA network within five years.

— Catherine Haslam, Asia Editor, Light Reading

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