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A U.S. District judge has provided Broadcom with broad wins: The judge provided a permanent injunction against Qualcomm’s ability to sell cellular data chips that were deemed to infringe on Broadcom’s patents. Qualcomm must immediately stop selling WCDMA chips—that’s the technology used in UMTS and HSPA, 3G extensions of GSM—and can continue to sell EVDO chips through Jan. 2009 to customers they were selling products to as of May 29, when the infringement case was decided by jury. Qualcomm faces a mandatory set of royalties for those continued chip sales, and must negotiate with Broadcom for one set of royalties that the judge didn’t proscribe.
Qualcomm will be able to design around this injunction by producing new chips that don’t use the same processes that were found to violate Broadcom’s patents, but it will take a number of months, and leaves them out of the rising HSPA market that AT&T and T-Mobile will be pushing harder on as AT&T completes its faster 3G network and T-Mobile starts its real 3G buildout using frequency purchase at auction several months ago.
Qualcomm takes a step in the interests of worldwide 3G compatibility: The company will release Gobi, a chipset that would allow a laptop computer to connect over either EVDO or HSPA, providing worldwide compatibility, as well as interoperability with both standards within the U.S. This could drive 3G into laptops in high quantities, with manufacturers no longer needing to secure a deal with a particular operator, or have extensive explanations about service issues for their users. Nearly 9m laptop cell modems will ship in 2007, with 2/3rds supporting GSM standards.
Connected with this, carriers need to band together to offer better international roaming. If you’re an AT&T customer, for instance, you can roam to many other countries through partner agreements while using GPRS up to HSPA, but even with monthly subscription plans, you pay a high rate relative to domestic costs, and have low limits on throughput. Carriers like to eke out the maximum dollars from roaming, but with the potential of millions of laptop owners traveling who could use a network but avoid it due to cost, and who have Wi-Fi available at a generally lower cost, operators might need to rethink this high-margin strategy in favor of higher revenues.
AT&T has started to upgrade its network to handle HSUPA—the U being for Uplink meaning upstream—and now has a card that can handle that, too: The Sierra Wireless AirCard 881 LaptopConnect PC Card will support HSUPA speeds that should average between 500 to 800 Kbps as AT&T upgrades its network this fall. HSDPA (downlink or downstream) already offers rates that AT&T cites as between 600 Kbps and 1.4 Mbps, although that 1.4 Mbps figure is closer to a peak rate (they don’t use the word average here). AT&T is deploying 3.6 Mbps HSDPA, while 7.2 Mbps is already available in Europe. Competing 3G networks from Sprint Nextel and Verizon offer comparable speeds on the portions that use EVDO Rev. A, which is an ever-larger majority percentage of both those firms’ networks, reports say.
The card is free with a two-year contract until Nov. 3, and has the usual $60/mo. with commitment rate, or $80/mo. with less, for unmetered usage. The AirCard 881 works with GPRS and EDGE worldwide, too.
Nova Media offers a €299 ExpressCard with Mac OS X drivers: Mac users often see worse or lagging drivers for cell data modems. Nova Media has filled that gap in the past. Now they’re offering an ExpressCard that supports the highest worldwide rates for HSDPA: 7.2 Mbps. The card can also handle 3.6 Mbps HSDPA, and slower UMTS, EDGE, and GRPS connections. The package requires a separate service agreement with a carrier, of course, and the €299 reflects the actual cost, rather than the carrier-subsidized version. The card package ships in May.
Intel will ship the next Centrino platform without an option for the worldwide HSDPA 3G cell standard: The partnership with Nokia was supposed to lead to both Wi-Fi and HSDPA (GSM’s top-speed 3G offering) in a single package. Instead, when Santa Rosa launches in the second quarter of this year, Wi-Fi will ride solo. This is the end of a strategy that dates back to the first Centrino launch when an Intel executive told me that it was inevitable that Wi-Fi and cell would both find their way into the platform. Four years later, no such luck.
The bottom line appears to be dollars. Intel told InfoWorld that laptop makers don’t want to pay to have HSDPA integrated in every machine. Intel will consider adding 3G in future platforms, however. Specific manufacturers have chosen to include EVDO and HSDPA embedded in their laptops, but that increases cost and requires consumers or businesses to order specific models.
The upshot is that the cell networks lost the chance to avoid subsidizing hundreds of thousands or millions more PC Cards and ExpressCards, and gain a new audience that could flip a switch to gain cell data service.
The mobile access equipment maker Novatel rolls out new family of adapters: The company’s HSDPA/HSUPA products include a new ExpressCard (Merlin X950D), HSDPA USB Modem (Ovation MC870D), an embedded module (EU870D/EU860D), and an ExpressCard to USB adapter (Merlin XUA-1). The ExpressCard is a worldwide HSDPA, HSUPA, EDGE/GPRS modem with support for full 7.2 Mbps HSDPA speeds, and a future firmware upgrade for 2.1 Mbps HSUPA. HSUPA hasn’t been rolled out yet in any significant way because the focus is always on the downlink side for cellular operators. The Merlin XUA-1 is a unique adapter, allowing the use of an ExpressCard via a USB 2.0 port.
The HP Compaq nc6400 features worldwide UMTS, HSDPA: Cingular’s card allows the device to work on US 3G frequencies and others worldwide. Some PC Cards are quint-band; this one, tri-band. The laptop will run about $1600 and ship in late December. Cingular’s DataConnect Global plan for $110 or $140 per month includes a certain amount of cell data access and reduced metered pricing in many countries outside the US, while including “unlimited” domestic US access.
Novatel ships its Merlin XU870 Express Card to support 3.6 Mbps and 7.2 Mbps HSDPA: With millions of laptops shipping with ExpressCard slots, and the cell card makers are catching up. The card is a quad-band GPRS/EDGE modem and tri-band UMTS/HSDPA to support all four standards of GSM-evolved cell data in Europe and North America. The card is designed for today’s 3.6 Mbps HSDPA networks, but the company claims a firmware upgrade will enable 7.2 Mbps when operators move to that higher speed.
T-Mobile said today that they would use their new spectrum licenses to build a 3G network: The company spent $4.2b to acquire about 23 MHz of nationwide spectrum in the 1700 MHz and 2100 MHz bands. They will deploy what’s being called UMTS across the US starting later this year; they have equipment deployed already, waiting to be turned on, apparently.
UMTS is a generic term for 3G GSM-evolved networks, but is also often used to refer to the first, slow flavor, somewhere between EDGE/1xRTT speeds and EVDO. HSDPA, which is what T-Mobile will be largely deploying (although details are a little scanty), operates around EVDO Rev. 0 speeds at present. Near-term versions of HSDPA should match EVDO Rev. A. GigaOm writes that the company is discussing the network as HSDPA-ready rather than as running HSDPA.
The frequencies that T-Mobile’s UMTS service will work on don’t match up worldwide, requiring new equipment. Europeans do offer UMTS over 2100 MHz, but not in the same configuration that T-Mobile will deploy.
T-Mobile will rev up the service in limited markets this year, with the full deployment taking through 2008, apparently. Handsets and services won’t be launched until mid-2007. The company also said that UMA (unlicensed mobile access), which allows seamless roaming between Wi-Fi and cell networks while making voice calls, will be in trials this year.
Silicon giant Intel partners with Nokia to put cell data modems on motherboards: Nokia will manufacture HSDPA modems that will be embedded in Santa Rosa motherboards, Intel said last week, which is the next generation of Centrino. Santa Rosa will encompass 802.11n, the Core 2 Duo processor, improved graphics performance, and other upgrades; it will ship in the first half of 2007.
Personal tech columnist finds Cingular, Verizon versions of ExpressCard cell modems work well, but Cingular’s network not so much: Walt Mossberg tested both EVDO and HSDPA ExpressCard adapters from Novatel that use the new PCI Express adapter for laptops. He thought both cards worked just fine, and had no complaints about setting them up. However, he did find in his testing in two cities and an Amtrak route that Cingular just couldn’t compete with Verizon. Cingular is still building out their network, but Mossberg’s review shows how far behind they are in performance in two major east coast cities likely to find subscribers.
The cell operator releases USB to serve new those without PC Card slots: Vodafone is addressing the needs of desktop users, laptops with ExpressCard, and Apple MacBook Pro owners. Vodafone is specifically offering support for Mac users, which is almost always lacking. Vodafone started rolling out 3G in the UK in June. This is an HSDPA modem, so it’s not an entree into the U.S. market where Verizon Wireless, 45 percent owned by Vodafone, uses the incompatible EVDO standard for 3G. The USB modem will ship in the fall.
Not to be too graphic, but there’s a saying about eating one’s own dog food in the computer biz: Perhaps the saying is in all businesses, even the dog-food industry, but it means that in order to understand one’s customer, a firm must require its own employees, including executives, uses the firm’s products. Microsoft runs on Windows and Office, occasionally to the chagrin of employees who are required to beta test and get work done.
Cingular has just installed its UMTS/HSDPA network in San Antonio, the headquarters of SBC-cum-AT&T, which owns 60 percent of the cell operator and would like to acquire the remaining 40 percent as part of a BellSouth acquisition.
RCR News reports that Cingular will invest $346m in its 3G network in 2006, about $156m of which will cover San Antonio and the southern part of the state. Cingular plans to expand HSDPA to the top 100 US markets in 2006, to provide effective competition with Verizon and Sprint.
IDG News Service reports on nervousness at cell operators on their all-you-can eat data plans: The article notes a fact that I am aware of and have seen little reporting on elsewhere—that most cell towers wee designed for 2G or 2.5G networks and have T-1 (1.544 Mbps) or broadband wireless connections for backhaul. Because each 3G channel can use up to several Mbps, a tower handling multiple channels and users would be overwhelmed. This is where fixed WiMax (802.15-2004 flavor) may become extremely important to carriers as a relatively inexpensive way to add capacity.
Of all the carriers, Sprint sounds least concerned, and they say their terms only restrict the use of their service as a server. A Gartner analyst, Michael King, notes that Verizon and Cingular will find it hard going to back off from their current plans. He’s quoted in the article noting, Never in the history of wireless and mobile communications has a carrier succeeded in bringing prices back up.”
The EU740 is an embeddable PCI Express Mini Card handling HSDPA: These cards are designed for OEMs, or manufacturers of equipment. A Dell or HP would purchase the EU740 from Novatel as a standard feature or add-on option for laptops that use the PCI Express bus. This bus is the wave of the future, no exaggeration, with much higher performance and better parallel operations. It’s found in many of the newest laptops and some desktops that use Intel Core chips, such as Apple’s new MacBook Pro, iMac, and Mac mini models, and laptops from Dell and others.
The press release merely points out that the EU740 (and the U740 PC Card) have received certification from a global organization.
JiWire reports that cellular data adapters for a new laptop card slot will be coming later this year: The ExpressCard form factor relies on the faster PCI Express bus found in newer laptops and desktops. The slot is shaped differently from CardBus and supports as much as four times the speed. The ExpressCard/34 slot is what you’ll find in laptops (34mm wide along its insertion point), while some servers can take the ExpressCard/54 (34mm at insertion point, 54mm on external portion). While a /54 card fits into the same /34 slot, there are different requirements for support. A laptop that supports /34 cards will probably also support only 1.5 volts of power output, too; a higher-voltage option is 3.3V.
Dell, Apple, and other companies are already pushing many laptops out the door that combine the Intel Core chip series, PCI Express bus, and and an ExpressCard/34 slot. Which means that you’re sunk if you want to use advanced Wi-Fi instead of built-in or use a 3G cellular data card for EVDO or HSDPA.
Fortunately, JiWire determined at last week’s cellular trade industry convention, the ExpressCards are coming. There was no doubt as to “if,” just “when.” Dell says EVDO in May or June for its laptop line, largely transitioned, and HSDPA in August or September. Dell sells laptops with either standard embedded using mini-PCI adapters.
Interestingly, Mac drivers appear to be on the agenda for adapter makers. Because Apple’s ExpressCard-bearing MacBook Pro models use Intel chips, this might make driver development simpler, and thus a more front-of-the-line proposition than for CardBus-based adapters.
JiWire also noted that cards that handle EVDO Rev. A—a 30% faster version of EVDO—are due later in the year. Sprint plans to introduce Rev. A widely by early 2007. They also point to a USB-based EVDO modem (supporting Rev. A) that Novatel hasn’t officially announced but was being flashed at Sprint’s booth; that operator will sell it. A USB form factor with Mac and Windows drivers means almost any computer could handle EVDO.
Cingular becomes first US carrier to offer worldwide card, plan: The insanely named Option GlobeTrotter GT Max LaptopConnect card handles 850, 900, 1800, 1900, and 2100 megahertz (MHz) spectrum bands, covering GSM, GPRS, UMTS, and HSDPA worldwide. The card will be $100 with a two-year domestic or one-year GlobalConnect commitment. The card also includes Wi-Fi.
The service is priced by countries included in a particular plan. A North American plan includes the US, Canada, and Mexico for $110 per month; for $140 per month you get two dozen countries including North America and Australia, China, France, Germany, England, Japan, and others. These two plans include unlimited data in the US and 100 MB of data transfer in the selected other countries.
Data above the 100 MB is $5 per MB in GlobalConnect countries and $19.50 per MB in about 80 other countries. These overages may appear quite expensive in some ways, but having a defined and consistent rate has its benefits, and should allow control.
Other carriers with worldwide plans require two separate PC Cards. The antenna on this card retracts, allowing it to remain in the laptop while in storage or travel.
The 3G service launches in 16 metro areas: They’re claiming 400 to 700 Kbps on average, which is the same speed that Verizon Wireless estimates for its EVDO service. The service cost is roughly comparable to VZW and Sprint PCS: $100 for a PC Card with two-year commitment, unlimited usage of specific services for $60 to $80 per month. The $60/month rate applies to voice customers who commit to two years of HSDPA data; otherwise, it’s $80/month.
“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.
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.
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.
The Seattle Times points out that the emperor has no clothes: Cingular can claim the first HSDPA network deployment, but Tricia Duryea explains that the company won’t have phones and PC Cards that provide service at rates faster than basic UMTS until late this year.
Can I just express related irritation at the term UMTS here, in passing? UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System) is a 3G framework standardized by a variety of regional groups. There’s no speed attached to the UMTS definition at the UMTS Forum. HSDPA is described as a UMTS enhancement, but it’s still considered part of UMTS. Thus, when you talk about UMTS, you’re talking about a family of standards with extensions, or you’re talking about a specific set of technology with particular bandwidth. Very confusing to the average mortal.
Ericsson scoops its customer, announcing upgraded HSDPA service in Dallas/Ft. Worth: The company provides the high-speed download packet access equipment that Cingular will use to take about 15 metro areas to this cell data standard that’s competitive or possibly faster than Verizon and Sprint’s EVDO. While HSDPA may be live, Cingular isn’t selling it yet, and I’m not sure that anyone outside the company has a PC Card that will use the faster standard, either.
Somebody left the door open over at Cingular, showing UMTS deployment: A customer-service portal has been left open, discovered by the folks at HowardForums, showing Cingular’s plans to announce UMTS service Nov. 1, 2005. UMTS is a catchall term for 3G cellular data, and the HSDPA (high-speed downlink packet access) flavor that’s faster than the first-generation plain UMTS and CDMA-based EVDO is considered UMTS.
The open site (so far) shows 18 markets that will launch Nov. 1. The maps for these markets show the Nov. 1 launch plans and also the area planned for expansion by 2007. In the Seattle-Tacoma market, a pretty enormous area is covered by the first phase; the state capitol and surrounding areas are slated for phase 2. (I haven’t posted the maps as it’s likely there will be a take-down request from Cingular. The HowardForums pages have the maps, for now.) [link via Engadget]
Our fine colleague Nancy Gohring got ahold of this story and Cingular commented on the Web site: no comment! But they said they’re on track to deploy in 15 to 20 markets this year. Which sounds an awful lot like a comment. Nancy’s analysis shows that some markets may get plain old UMTS (200 to 300 Kbps) and others HSDPA (400 to 700 Kbps).
The first HSDPA cards are hitting the market: The latest in 3G UMTS service for GSM-evolving networks is hitting the market before such networks are deployed. An analyst quoted in this article says Option is four to six months ahead of competitors, which gives it the cat-bird’s seat in trials, tests, and bundled offerings.
Dell’s partnership with Verizon Wireless must not have been exclusive: The computermaker announced earlier this week that some high-end laptops next year would have the option of an internal Verizon Wireless EVDO card, reducing cost, integration, and support. Today, the company says they will also build in Cingular’s upcoming HSPDA (High-Speed Packet Download Access) next year, which will offer somewhat faster download speeds than EVDO and enormously higher upload speeds.
EVDO offers a consistent 50 to 100 Kbps upstream and 200 to 400 Kbps downstream with higher downstream peak rates of 1 Mbps or more. HSDPA should provide 400 to 700 Kbps average speeds on the downstream side with peak rates of 2 Mbps; upstream should be in the 100 to 200 Kbps range, although exact numbers aren’t being provided.
Until HSDPA is available, Dell is offering Cingular’s GC83 EDGE PC Card for $199 with a $150 rebate from Cingular once a service plan is added. Cingular will offer unlimited EDGE for $59.99 per month to Cingular voice customers.
Integrating a cellular data card into a laptop shifts the software driver, update, and support costs to the laptop maker, which hopes it can garner a premium for the package and will almost certainly derive ongoing revenue from customers that sign up for Verizon or Cingular’s data packages. It’s a win for customers, too, in that an integrated card should work better (better antenna design, less fuss in getting it to work) and the actual add-on cost should be lower because of the form factor and integration.
The bloom has fallen off Dell’s rose recently in customer support, however, where it used to score just below Apple Computer in independent consumer tests. Dell is still No. 2, but much further below Apple. The company also recently shut down its user forums which allowed other customers to provide tech support or users to self-help through archives.
The company will offer the UMTS-skipping high-speed cell data in March in four countries: Cingular has decided to skip UMTS in the states in favor of HSDPA, and Deutsche Telekom’s T-Mobile International has opted for the same path. UMTS costs too much without delivering enough benefits during its short window of being the highest speed GSM migration path broadband offering.
DoCoMo claims lack of content is delaying HSDPA drive: But Carlo Longino agrees with analysts who say that it’s the handsets that will be late, with models not appearing until mid-2006 in volume. This will almost certainly affect Cingular’s plans to some extent as the company’s statements indicate HSDPA next year, but not as early as DoCoMo was aiming for.
Sony’s Vaio T350 includes an EDGE modem for CIngular’s network: The $2,199 and up laptop is configured to work only with Cingular’s EDGE service. Unlimited service is $80 per month; $50 per month buys you 50 MB of data transfer. Given that Verizon is charging $80 per month for unlimited data at a rate that’s at least five times faster, this seems a bit rich even though Cingular already has a national EDGE network and Verizon must built its slower 1xRTT up to EVDO in most of the country.
This AP piece says that CIngular will roll out UMTS this year and next, but other reports have said Cingular will skip UMTS in favor of HSDPA, even though it means waiting, to ensure higher data speeds in the same limited spectrum.
Novatel has two models, one for North America, and one for the rest of the world: The HSDPA (high-speed downlink packet access) standard is rapidly emerging as the GPRS/EDGE migration path with Cingular choosing to skip the W-CDMA flavor of UMTS that AT&T Wireless had trialed before their purchase. HSDPA leapfrogs W-CDMA speeds, which is why it’s so appealing.
Novatel’s cards can be embedded in laptops which use PCI Express Mini as a way to incorporate standard networking components on the laptop’s bus. The cards are compatible with GSM, GPRS, and EDGE worldwide.