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The Fastest 3G Yet

For past six weeks or so, I've been testing Vodafone UK 's 7.2-Mbit/s High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) service – the self-proclaimed "Fastest Mobile Broadband in the Galaxy" – around London and other parts of the U.K.

I'll have a full review ready for publication soon. But for now, I'm ready to report that, with the network pushing speeds over 5 Mbit/s on the downlink and 1 Mbit/s on the uplink, there can only be one verdict: phenomenal technology and a great service.

For me, there's a backstory to this review. I remember going to cover a 3G conference as a reporter back in 1999 – the one where it was announced to rapturous applause that the first 3G specifications, known to this day as Release 99, had been completed. Before setting out on the trip, I went to borrow a laptop from the IT department. This was back in the days when we all had beige Compaq desktops with cathode-ray monitors.

The IT guy asked me what I needed a laptop for (like he was doing me huge favor, laptops were only for top execs back then), and he laughed out loud in disbelief when I told him it was for an event about a 3G wireless technology that would deliver 2 Mbit/s to a mobile. At that time, our entire office had just a single E1 (2-Mbit/s) leased line for 60-odd users, and it cost a small fortune.

For a long time, it looked like that IT guy was right: 3G got nowhere near the promised 2-Mbit/s speeds. Yet now here I am, able to download spurious high-def movie trailers at 5 Mbit/s on a mobile service that costs just £15 ($30) a month! That's phenomenal technical and commercial progress.

So who's laughing now? (Vodafone is – all the way to the bank.)

Will the next ten years deliver the same kind of advances? Or is the wireless industry chasing diminishing returns? It's hard to say for sure, but looking at the key research themes and events we have planned – on subjects such as all-IP mobile networks, femtocells, HSPA Evolution, LTE, mobile WiMax, Ethernet backhaul, and mobile Internet applications – it's sure going to be interesting finding out.

— Gabriel Brown, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading
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