Vendors work to speed up existing data technology

With all the hoopla surrounding WiMAX and LTE as the future at this week's CTIA 2008 show in Las Vegas, vendors don't want us to forget HSPA and even EDGE.

Ericsson plans to demonstrate downlink speeds of 42 Mb/s over a 5-megahertz channel using HSPA evolved equipment with the addition of MIMO technology. The new architecture is expected to become commercially available this year. For some time Ericsson, which hasn't boarded the WiMAX train, has been heavily pushing HSPA, likely hoping that by providing improvements, operators won't be tempted to deploy WiMAX before LTE comes along. For the past year Ericsson has been doing everything it can to make HSPA attractive for a while. 

In October, the vendor introduced infrastructure and device platforms for WCDMA/HSPA in the 2.6 GHz frequency band, where new licenses for wireless broadband services are becoming available globally. Most view that band along with the 2.5 GHz and 3.5 GHz as bands ripe for WiMAX growth. Ericsson also announced its first HSPA module for laptops and other client devices, aiming for 50 percent of notebook computers to adopt HSPA modules by 2011. In September, Ericsson introduced the U335 WCDMA mobile platform designed to enable handset providers to create mass-market HSPA multimedia devices capable of offering services such as mobile TV, mobile video blogging and other services that require both high uplink and downlink data speeds.

Of course, Ericsson has another good point. Not every operator can get their hands on additional spectrum to deploy WiMAX or LTE, which will require a significant amount of spectrum to achieve the extremely high data speeds that the technology's proponents tout.

Meanwhile, Nokia Siemens Networks announced last week an upgrade to EDGE technology that doubles its speed. The new software, known as Dual Carrier EDGE, improves the speed to 600 kbps over existing GSM/EDGE networks. NSN said that its new Dual Carrier EDGE technology, which will be available as a software upgrade beginning in the third quarter, is part the company's strategy to promote EDGE as a true mobile broadband technology.

No doubt EDGE would be dying right now if it wasn't for the popularity of the iPhone in the U.S. and Europe. It has been seen that the iPhone's support of EDGE is the primary flaw of the iPhone since the sophisticated capabilities of the device can't be fully exploited by an EDGE network with sparse access to WiFi.

But the iPhone still flies in the face of what operators around the world are trying to do: make money from 3G. They are looking for innovative ways to persuade customers to adopt services on these higher speed networks to monetize their investments and deliver data services at a more cost-effective price point. Move into the WiMAX or LTE realm, and it's about providing a broadband Internet experience quite cheaply, something that is not affordable even on today's fastest 3G networks. Now apply the iPhone on a 2.5G network, and it's a step back. Will speeding up an inefficient network do the trick?--Lynnette

P.S. The Fierce editorial team will be bringing you all the news from CTIA Wireless. I'll be there along with Editor-in-Chief Sue Marek, Brian Dolan and Jason Ankeny. Click here for the latest news from CTIA.