World’s Wireless Carriers To Supercharge 3G

Some of the world’s leading handset manufacturers and wireless carriers announced an agreement to develop advanced technology, dubbed “Super 3G,” for sending high-resolution video at speeds 10 times today’s third-generation wireless.

The deal, announced by Japanese giant NTT DoCoMo, included participation from European firms Vodafone, Siemens and Alcatel as well as U.S.-based Cingular. The companies reportedly targeted a time frame of 2009-2010 to deliver mobile phone hardware and services capable of transmission speeds of up to 100 megabits per second.

Analysts, however, downplayed the significance of the deal, indicating that the single standard and video capabilities the companies were aiming for are still a long way from reality or demand.

“It’s nice the operators all want to work together on something, but that typically means it will slow the process down and you’ll have a standard that is to be everything to everyone, which satisfies no one,” Yankee Group analyst Roger Entner told TechNewsWorld.

3G Tomorrow, and Today

The wireless players — which included Japan’s NEC and about two dozen other wireless handset and service providers from around the globe — claimed that their objective of a single, unified standard for high-speed wireless transmission would pave the way for games, movies and more on smart phones.

The companies said they aimed to lower manufacturing costs and encourage upgrades of existing infrastructure to accommodate higher wireless speeds and capacity — reportedly enough for instantaneous, high-resolution video.

Wireless analysts such as Gartner’s Phil Redman, however, said the companies involved in the “Super 3G” pact should save some energy for today’s wireless transmission problems.

“There’s still a lot of work to do in 3G,” Redman told TechNewsWorld.

Going Global

Redman said the announced collaboration has to do more with serving a worldwide market than with delivering video to mobile phones, for which demand is questionable.

“It’s more about moving to what I call global wireless service providers,” Redman said. He said that for smaller companies in the alliance, the deal could offer the opportunity to deliver technology or services that they previously could not.

Redman downplayed the potential for video applications and streaming on mobile handsets because the devices do not lend themselves to such use. “Portable video doesn’t add a lot, so I’m skeptical about that opportunity,” he said, adding that MP3 and other audio capabilities are likely to remain more compelling than video.

High Hurdles

Yankee Group’s Entner said the agreement does not have much substance, even though 2009 is a long way off and reports indicate the work will be supported by nearly US$100 million from NTT DoCoMo alone.

“All they’re doing right now is setting broad parameters [for collaboration],” Entner said. “That really doesn’t do much.”

Entner said as they work to deliver higher throughput and more advanced mobile capabilities, the wireless manufacturers and carriers will have to overcome the typical speed and capacity hurdles that have held up broader 3G penetration.

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