3G is dead, says mobile phone inventor

The bandwidth and business model for 3G is not there according to Marty Cooper - the man credited with inventing the mobile phone

3G has problems, according to Marty Cooper, and he should know -- the chief executive of high-speed wireless company ArrayComm is credited with inventing the mobile phone while working at Motorola.

"We engineers knew years ago that 3G as presently constituted is essentially dead," said Cooper, speaking at the Broadband DSL Forum conference in Berlin.

The director-general of standards body ETSI had little to say in response.

Cooper's comment -- in a speech which concentrated on the possibility of faster wireless by other means -- drew an indignant response from Karl Heinz Rosenbrock, the head of the European standards body ETSI (which is in charge of the UMTS specifications on which some 3G networks are based) who was in the audience.

"We are working on the further evolution of the system with regional standards organisations," said Rosenbrock.

"The first networks have started live services in field trial status."

But Cooper dismissed these services: "The hype said that UMTS would give users 2Mbps channels, but the truth is that it has 1.1Mbps channels, which must be shared by people to be economic," he said. "It also needs a reasonable number of base stations. In practice users will get about 80kbps, at a much greater cost than GPRS, which currently gives 50 to 60kbps. My reaction is not much more than a yawn."

3G would improve with time, Rosenbrock told ZDNet UK, but he did not dispute the figures Cooper quoted.

Cooper's company is working on directional antennae which will offer users higher bandwidths than current 3G by reusing the same frequencies in different spaces around a base station. He also suggested that applications should be developed with the end user in mind, rather than based on what the telcos think users want.

"We have not gotten out of the structure that comes from the monopoly world," said Cooper. "The incumbents had labs which would decide what the applications would be. Then they would be built by the incumbent's manufacturing arm, and presented to users. No other business works like that. You should start with the marketplace."

Surprisingly, for a panel session at the Broadband DSL Forum on the future of broadband, there was no DSL spokesman, just Cooper and Michael Bayer, director of service provider marketing at Cisco, promoting (once more) metro Ethernet.

A Texas Instruments employee asked if they saw any future for DSL; Bayer said it would be around for a couple of years untill it is replaced by Ethernet, but Cooper said DSL would be around for at least twenty years.

"Good," said the lady from TI. "I have a job for a while."


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