My next phone?

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2.5G mobile phones, i.e., phones that can send picture, text and voice MMS messages, and which still seem new fangled to many people, are going be superceded by an even newer generation of mobile phone technology within the next few (several?) years. Unfortunately there’s two possible ‘newer generations’ to choose from. Lets look at them.

3G

For the last few years, all the major phone companies and service providers have been investing billions in [and hyping up] 3G phone technology. 3G allows one to ‘do much more‘ with their phone than 2.5G allows for, but there are some of problems with 3G. First, 3G rollout is a bit of a chicken-and-egg affair with mobile producers blaming the networks for bad coverage and the networks blaming mobile producers for bad mobiles. From that link; “‘Charles Dunstone, Carphone Warehouse CEO, said “current mobile content is still lacking’, pointing out services such as Active from O2, Live! from Vodafone, OrangeWorld and T-Mobile’s T-Zones, is often not exclusive or just too expensive.”. There is one provider doing 3G in the UK right now; Three, but every Three customer I’ve come across seems to hate the service to some degree. Secondly, and this is the biggy for me; the data transfer rate is a bit shit. “384 Kbps when a device is stationary or moving at pedestrian speed, 128 Kbps in a car, and 2 Mbps in fixed applications“. I mean, please. Not very good compared to…

WiMax

Wi-fi, for those who haven’t heard of it, is a system for wirelessly networking computer equipment together. Originally wi-fi was designed for use on private local area networks, either in workplaces or in homes, but some hackers found that many wireless networks were left unsecured, allowing anyone to access it and make use of that networks own internet connection. Some entrepreneurial companies picked up this concept and modified it slightly, setting up wireless ‘hotspots’ in large city centres, airports, cafes, etc, letting customers access wireless broadband through their wireless enabled mobile computers, for a small fee of course, while they wait for their plane or drink their mocha. Wi-fi had always been a local, short range thing; put a large structure between yourself and the access point you are using, or wander more than 40f away, and you’ll loose your connection.

But ten months ago, along came a new souped up version of the original wi-fi standards, WiMax. As this article summarizes, “WiMAX networks have a service area range of up to 52 kilometers (31 miles) and allow users to get broadband connectivity without needing a direct line of sight to the base station. This wireless broadband technology also provides shared data rates up to 70 Mbps, which is enough bandwidth to simultaneously support more than 60 businesses with E1/T1-type connectivity and hundreds of homes with DSL-type connectivity using a single sector of a base station.”. The article also notes, “It has the potential to be as universal as television, and the power to span the world.”.

To get where I’m going with WiMax, you need to remember that a large amount of telephone voice traffic is already routed through the internet these days, plus the fact one can already get pc based telephone products. WiMax trial services are already springing into being; I feel it’s only a matter of time before the two markets — telecoms and wireless broadband — collide.

4G

“4G?” I hear you ask. 4G is what’s meant to be what’s coming after 3G. The technology is being developed, but don’t hold your breath – I’m not. Forget about it for the moment 😉

3G + WiFi

Because of the billions of investment that has been put into 3G over the last few years, I have a very strong feeling it will not be left to die that easily… Here are a few articles outlining various points of view regarding the future of the whole 3G/WiMax/4G thang, many of which envision a compromise situation;

T-Mobile’s big idea – marrying 3G and Wi-Fi.
“3G alone is not enough. Any [operator] doing it alone is making a mistake and missing opportunities.”.

Integrated 3G and Wi-Fi for T-Mobile
“T-Mobile also revealed plans for a multi-network service that will allow users to roam “seamlessly” across three different wireless networks: GPRS (2.5G), WCDMA (3G), and Wi-Fi.”

Nokia sees powerful mobile future
“With the promise of 3G technology as well as wi-fi – which allows broadband over the airwaves – Nokia is convinced that powerful handheld devices will combine both technologies.”

3G is Safe from Wi-Fi
WLAN is ‘on the pause’ and 3G is ‘on the go’. … WLAN is not an alternative to 3G.

WiMAX and 3G are Poised to Deliver
…Infrastructure spending on [3G and WiMax] technologies will reach $16 billion by 2007. However, the vast majority of this will be spent on traditional cellular technologies, rather than WiMAX/802.16 or 802.20 equipment.

The New WiFi Gels With 4G
Last mile access will be the first application for 802.16a but mobility will follow via 802.16e. WiMAX is considered a migration path to 4G.

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