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Ars Technica writes up the coming specs for EVDO Rev. B: We won’t see it until for a couple of years at least—EVDO Rev. A is just really rolling out right now on Verizon and Sprint Nextel’s networks—but Rev. B will scorch Rev. A speeds. Rev. A might top 3 Mbps in ideal circumstances, but Rev. B showed 9.3 Mbps on average using a 5 MHz channel (3xEVDO, I believe, versus 1xEVDO today) in testing.
A fact that doesn’t get the same kind of attention as these speeds is how the backbone serves the cell sites that produce such high numbers. I have been told many times in the past by industry insiders that the U.S. cellular network only has a subset of its site served by more than T-1 lines or the equivalent. This is changing, but it’s a huge cost, and many locations can’t easily support fiber lines or faster service. This is where fixed WiMax and other wireless backhaul may come into effect, using licensed bandwidth on a point-to-multipoint basis to drive data to the cell sites which then distribute in a cloud around themselves.
Because of the slow pace of broadband speed improvements in the U.S., it’s likely that Rev. B could outstrip wireline broadband in many parts of the country and parts of many cities. While fiber to the home or node will be widespread by 2009, it’s predicted to be available to perhaps a quarter of the US population, of which only a portion will subscribe. Thus Sprint and its mobile WiMax and Verizon and its Rev. B could give wireline a run for its money. Except that Verizon’s current position is that cellular data isn’t a replacement for wireline; Sprint’s mobile WiMax rollout has a very different attitude, closer to Clearwire’s.
The Wall St Journal looks into wireless crystal ball: The newspaper predicts substantially more mobile video as services like Qualcomm’s MediaFlo roll out. MediaFlo uses spectrum Qualcomm won in the former UHF TV band that will allow them to broadcast high-quality video and audio to cell receivers without the compromises required to share cellular voice/data bands. Verizon is offering MediaFlo in 20 markets for $15 per month by itself.
MobiTV will continue to expand its offering; they offer television over Wi-Fi and broadband networks. They hope to offer a converged plan in which the same programming will be available for a single fee across many different networks. MobiTV isn’t a replacement for IPTV, which requires high home bandwidth; rather, it’s a streaming TV on PC/handheld offering—for now.
The article also notes that Wi-Fi is being built into an increasingly large number of cell phones—80 so far—and the need to hook these phones into hotspot networks becomes ever greater.
The Novatel 740 is now available: The ExpressCard works in Windows and Macs using Verizon’s upgraded EVDO Rev. A network, as well as the parts of its network that still run at EVDO Rev. 0 and with 1xRTT. The claimed rates are 600 Kbps to 1.4 Mbps downstream and 500 to 800 Kbps upstream. The card is $180 with a two-year commitment and $230 with a one-year commitment. Monthly rates are the same as with earlier data plans: $60 with a voice plan and two-year commitment; $80 without.
Their unlimited service remains “unmetered,” as I term it. You can use all the bandwidth you want as long as it’s limited to 5 GB per month and falls into Web surfing, email, and intranet application categories.
Vodafone’s international cell data roaming: The European carrier will offer 24 hours access across several countries for €12 as a flat rate. Customers in 13 countries, including the UK and Ireland, are initially covered, but Vodafone expects to sign up 32 roaming partners by the end of next month, according to this report. This rate also includes just 50 MB of downloads during the 24-hour period. Seems rather steep, especially compared to monthly plans that include unlimited usage. Still, it’s a start.
Tim Higgins notes that it might not be smart to connect for cell data to your smartphone via Bluetooth: Bluetooth 1.2, the version most likely found in any given smartphone, tops out at a little above 700 Kbps, well below the top download burst rates available with EVDO and HSDPA. Higgins found in testing that connecting a smartphone via USB provided substantially improved throughput—in one case a best rate three times higher than with Bluetooth.
Bluetooth 2.0+EDR closes in on 3 Mbps, but as a newer flavor, it’s less available due to chip expense. It’ll eventually become the standard, even as EVDO Rev. A moves to over 3 Mbps of burst download speed and HSDPA hits similar marks. (Power usage, may be less of a constraint, because 2.0+EDR “talks” less to achieve the same throughput, thus being more efficient per bit.) [via JiWire]