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“Unlimited” is more of a catchphrase that’s combined with particular service plans for Cingular, Sprint, and Verizon: In this story I filed for Mobile Pipeline, I examine the terms and conditions of 3G (EVDO and UMTS/HSDPA) for the three U.S. carriers now providing high-speed cellular data. (T-Mobile offers just GPRS with EDGE to come, and seems to have few restrictions.)
The three carriers vary from hiding terms to making them crystal clear, but all three want usage relatively limited in their unlimited plans. You can browse the Web, read email, and use intranet services on Cingular and Verizon, while Sprint has looser terms. All three don’t want fill-the-pipes activity going on for whatever reason, and Verizon explicitly prohibits VoIP.
Research in Motion (RIM) will release the BlackBerry 7130e with EVDO support: Verizon Wireless has been selling the BlackBerry 7250 which works on Verizon’s lower-speed 1xRTT network, but this new device is a phone, Web browser, and email device that uses RIM’s push email system. Early this year, I reviewed a new Verizon Wireless EVDO phone that compared unfavorably to a BlackBerry for keyboard and simplicity. This fills that niche neatly. This phone already appeared in Canada on Bell Canada’s EVDO network.
The phone is $300 with a two-year commitment. The pricing is complicated: you can get BlackBerry-only plans and BlackBerry plus voice, with different pricing for the high-speed network add-on. It’s roughly $80 a month to $95 per month because the EVDO pricing is highly discounted for higher-level voice plans.
The Financial Times reports on a “flurry” of contracts worldwide to build HSDPA networks: The upgrade costs for HSDPA from existing GSM-based networks are apparently modest enough to make it a very attractive option. The current rollouts by Cingular and others are equivalent to or possibly slightly faster than EVDO speeds—no real-world test results yet in metropolitan markets—but the next generation of HSDPA will offer end users several Mbps.
HSDPA reduces latency, too, which makes it seem zippier and thus might make it an ADSL replacement technology in some markets. It seems more likely to have that potential in underserved but middle-class areas that are in the suburb or exurb regions around towns.
The FT also notes that HSDPA handsets won’t be out for a year because of power consumption, size, and cost.
Qualcomm announced a host of future additions to the EVDO and HSDPA standards: EVDO Rev B, mentioned in the previous post, is just one of a list of DMMX (DO Multicarrier Multilink Extensions) and HMMX (HSDPA MMX) add-ons. The multicarrier, multilink means that both standards will be able to work over protocols and bands simultaneously instead of requiring all service in a single band on a single carrier.
The EVDO Rev B speed boost can be accomplished by bonding 1.25 MHz channels, the current 1x channel width, in agglomerations of up 15 or 20 MHz total which would allow 73.5 Mbps downlinks. Even a single 1.25 MHz channel will increase from 3.1 Mbps with Rev A to 4.9 Mbps with Rev B.
They’ll also support some tweaky radio frequency and antenna additions that should increase range at lower signal levels; a new codec will improve voice quality; and GPS, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth will all be integrated into their offerings as well as OFDM as an encoding method for streaming audio and video.
Their goal is a multi-tasking convergence that allows simultaneous multi-band, multi-function operation. Thus GPS tracking, Internet mapping software, and a phone call could happen at once, or VoIP and Web page viewing with groupware functions.
It’s a brave new world, and Qualcomm has just leapt in with techniques and standards that show their extend, embrace, and conquer attitude.
The revision to the EVDO standard might be available within two years: The technology binds together many more channels, which means it’s more spectrum-intensive on the operator, according to the details provided in this article. But in areas in which the frequencies are available, this is a huge jump from the 3.1 Mbps of Rev A, which should start rolling out this next year.
Novatel says that Cingular will use its HSDPA PC Cards: The Merlin U730 3G card works worldwide with GPRS and EDGE, and handles UMTS and HSDPA. The card isn’t yet listed on their Web site.
Novatel is also supplying the Merlin S620 for Sprint Nextel’s EVDO network.