W-CDMA: When, Not If

Major commercial rollouts of wideband-CDMA (W-CDMA) networks are expected to ramp up from 2005 as carrier deployment of the technology becomes inevitable, according to the latest Unstrung Insider report -- W-CDMA: Disrupting the Technology Chain.

The next-generation technology of choice for the majority of existing GSM carriers, W-CDMA is the air interface specified by the Universal Mobile Telecommunications Service (UMTS) 3G standard. While today’s GSM networks can only support data transfer speeds of up to 9.6 kbit/s, W-CDMA can theoretically crank this up to a more impressive 2 Mbit/s.

Despite a lackluster response to early deployments (see J-Phone's Limited Appeal, Japan's 3G Needs a Kick Start and 3G UK Cries for Help), the report’s author Gabriel Brown believes that the steady migration of GSM carriers in Western Europe and other developed markets to W-CDMA is simply unavoidable.

However, Brown doesn't expect fancy multimedia and data services to be the main drivers behind a W-CDMA takeover. Instead Brown cites the cheaper voice services and greater call volumes that W-CDMA makes possible by virtue of its greater spectrum capacity as the key catalysts for network build-out. Typically, this can result in around 20 to 30 percent lower capital expenditure for carriers.

“W-CDMA is relevant because it is much more efficient in terms of the delivery cost per kilobit than existing, standardized cellular technologies,” he writes. “There’s no serious doubt that W-CDMA radio networks will be the next generation of wide area wireless technology. The real question for the W-CDMA equipment sector is when, not if, demand takes off.”

As a result, Brown expects the market to grow by an average of 121 percent year-on-year, with the bulk of the growth expected between 2005 and 2007:

The report also highlights the critical backstage work taking place to ensure that W-CDMA networks are fully interoperable with one another.

In contrast to the GSM world, where a carrier has traditionally used a sole equipment supplier for its network, the majority of W-CDMA networks currently in operation are using equipment from two or more vendors. There is therefore a critical need to carry out interoperability testing to ensure full integration and compatibility between rival equipment.

“The huge, industry-wide interoperability and network optimization efforts currently underway behind the scenes are vitally important,” adds Brown. “Despite being a burden on vendor’s resources these tests are essential to demonstrate that W-CDMA is a superior technology that will enable operators to cost-effectively deliver new services and to demonstrate that multi-vendors networks do work.”

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung

The full report -- W-CDMA: Disrupting the Technology Chain -- costs $400. An annual subscription to the Insider is ordinarily $1,250, but is currently available at the special introductory price of $899. For more information, including subscription information and research examples, go to: Unstrung Insider.

lrmobile_fredrikolsson 12/4/2012 | 11:48:22 PM
re: W-CDMA: When, Not If Well, I might agree with the article in general, but the maximum data speed in GSM network is actually 114 with GPRS, and even theoretically up to 384 with EGPRS.
IPobserver 12/4/2012 | 11:48:18 PM
re: W-CDMA: When, Not If True, GPRS is quite a bit faster. But you've got to admit, it's still a bit sluggish for most applications.

Also to clarify a point in the article, I think it will be a combination of voice and data that will drive WCDMA rollout. Voice alone isn't enough.
KeyMoney 12/4/2012 | 11:48:12 PM
re: W-CDMA: When, Not If Mobility Network Systems shut down last month and its assests are now on sale (Diablo Management). Who is next? Scarrrrry!
attwi2002 12/4/2012 | 11:48:03 PM
re: W-CDMA: When, Not If Gabriel and Dan - WCDMA will be rolled out, no question. It will be about voice and some data (but note, not even the operators nor the PTTs favour the possibility of 2Mb as a possibility. Sorry, Gabriel, that's a pipe dream). The bigger question is, which new technologies will run next to WCDMA here in Europe? For TDD/fixed wireless, it may be IP Wireless or Navini. Or, for FDD it may be Flarion. However, since the Europeans favours standards, Arraycomm, Flarion and 802.20 need win the big battle with the Microsoft of wireless, Qualcomm - to succeed here. www.telecomtv.com/newComms.php... and "Politics may kill new spec" www.itworldcanada.com/index.cf...

As Tony Blair puts it, let's not state the obvious. WCDMA will prevail for voice... but what next? As Shakespeare put it, "there's something rotten in Denmark."

Angela W

jim_pacyga 12/4/2012 | 11:45:30 PM
re: W-CDMA: When, Not If I agree with Angela.

Outside of a lab, in the middle of London, Tokyo or NYC, you show me EDGE with 384Kb/s or UMTS with 2Mb/s on a real cell with normal traffic and I'll give you a -ú!

Not only that, but to do so would require a ridiculous if even possible network config of umbrella coverage in micro/macro cells - no wonder no operator wants to it!

The mobile industry needs to avoid making the same over-hyped case for 3G/4G that was made for 2G (where the WAP acronym took the rap). Many data intensive apps are going to fall to WiFi and the bursty, ubiquitous stuff to 3G/4G. However, instead of hyping technology (as always), we need to be thinking about WHAT THE CONSUMER WANTS.

If it doesn't satisfy a need for them, then it's not real. General internet access on small terminals was a pipe dream for most because people have a different expectation for it. Japan was successful because they signed up 1000s of apps that people wanted, not just dumb stuff like yellow pages that rarely seemed to work and movie guides that didn't work half the time or left the customer hanging with no way to make a purchase or follow through.

The real challenge is to find what people want and give it to them - the bad news is that the people mightn't even know what that is yet!

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