HSDPA Comes Knocking
High-speed downlink packet access (HSDPA) is a 3G mobile broadband solution that absolutely thrills the growing ranks of users who find their download speeds improved by a factor of four or five. For satellite service providers, HSDPA is opening some new doors — while perhaps closing others.
HSDPA first emerged in 2005. While the solution is not found everywhere, the number of deployments is increasing. Recent reports count more than 90 HSDPA networks already in operation in more than 50 countries, with another 100 HSDPA-enabled networks in the works in more than 60 additional countries.
HSDPA is one of a series of specifications developed by the Universal Mobile Telecommunications System-centric Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) and has an uplink twin, high-speed uplink packet access, which will mold an asymmetric service model into one which is more symmetric. The full system takes Wideband Code Division Multiple Access (WCDMA)-enabled Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) networks to the next level. To be more precise, HSDPA is defined as part of the 3GPP/Universal Terrestrial Radio Access Network — Frequency Division Duplex Release 5 WCDMA specifications.
Does HSDPA have the potential to be truly disruptive? Wait and see. With countries like South Africa rapidly deploying WiMAX and new mobile TV platforms being widely embraced, HSDPA becomes another force in the wireless broadband arena. In Asia, in particular, HSDPA may not slam the door on digital multimedia broadcast via satellite ventures, but it certainly may make their climb to profitability a bit steeper.
For satellite broadband companies, which see unserved or underserved rural areas as fertile ground, HSDPA adds to the uncertainty surrounding the true size of the market, while at the same time, satellite service providers who already are engaged in the cellphone infrastructure and backhaul sector view HSDPA as just another service that needs to be delivered to an eager customer base.
In April, for example, Massachusetts-based Vanu Inc. and New York-based Globecomm Systems Inc. announced a single base station solution that supports GSM, GPRS and CDMA simultaneously. Globecomm Systems provides the hosted switch as part of its SatCell HST platform, while Vanu provides the software radio technology. HSDPA clearly is on the road map in this instance, and using this combined solution, HSDPA or any other new wireless standard can be installed and implemented across the GSM or CDMA network simply and seamlessly via a satellite-enabled remote software download.
This brief discussion of HSDPA excludes other mobile broadband developments, but in fairness to Verizon Wireless and Sprint mobile broadband groups in the United States, we must mention that their enormous customer bases access networks are empowered by an Evolution Data Optimized solution. HSDPA simply is exerting greater competitive pressure on a dynamic mobile broadband market and may push these two players to become even more competitive.
AT&T, which has relied on Enhanced Date rates for GSM Evolution (EDGE) technology, and Rogers Wireless in Canada are rolling out HSDPA. They see it as a true mobile broadband breakthrough, achieving speeds of 400 to 700 kilobits per second.
Wireless video calling or telephony flows over HSDPA seamlessly. Seoul-based KTF, for example, which is competing with SK Telecom in the Korean mobile broadband market, has tapped LG Electronics’ HSDPA-friendly LG-KH1200 handset. In late March, Sony Ericsson unveiled a new HSDPA handset for the North American market, the Sony Ericsson Z750, which joins dozens of other devices and PC cards now available from more than three dozen HSDPA vendors.
HSDPA enables Rogers Vision customers to engage in video calling as well as make the most of a wide range of mobile video-on-demand and radio-on-demand services — besides live XM Satellite radio — including scores of music tracks from Rogers MusicStore. Might this AT&T/Cingular and Rogers rollout of HSDPA impact satellite broadband service providers. It is too early to say, but in this emerging wireless marketplace one cannot rule it out.
Beyond the fact that the mobile broadband community must take steps to ensure that HSDPA performance satisfies customers and delivers as promised, the mobile broadband migration continues. Further out, a higher speed mobile broadband solution known as Universal Mobile Telecommunications System Long Term Evolution, or Super 3G, looms. It will use Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access technology not WCDMA, and may start appearing as early as 2009. Keep it in mind.