Ericsson unveils mobile 2.5G plan for Australia

Ericsson plans to release its complete suite of end-to-end 2.5G technology to Australian mobile carriers by Q2 of next year, the company announced at the official launch of its Mobility World program yesterday.

Ericsson plans to release its complete suite of end-to-end 2.5G technology to Australian mobile carriers by Q2 of next year, the company announced at the official launch of its Mobility World program yesterday.

This means that 2.5-generation Mobile Internet applications such as the Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) could potentially become available for Australian users before Q3 of next year. Ericsson’s MMS system allows users to send each other enhanced messages containing high-resolution colour images and sound, with embedded text.

The MMS technology was demonstrated live, with messages containing text and graphics travelling back and forth between mobile handsets with impressive speed. Messages were also sent from an Internet email account to the phone through the system, then back from the phone to the email address, all with images and sound, easily and quickly. The Ericsson T68 GPRS-enabled phone used in the demonstrations allows in-line composition of SMILE-formatted content in the message. The phones were equipped with high resolution colour displays and navigation control “joysticks.”

The technology was showcased live, operating through Telstra’s existing GPRS network. (Optus also currently offers GPRS functionality.)

The key message from Ericsson was related to their ongoing support for developers of dynamic new applications for the Mobile Internet. Ericsson’s Mobility World is designed to “to help assist partners and customers to define & deploy Mobile Internet solutions,” said Lisa Tuffs, business development manager of consumer applications, Ericsson Mobility World.

“Services offered within Ericsson Mobility World support partners through all phases of creating applications and services, from developing the initial idea, technical concept and business plan evaluation, through to design, technical development, testing, network implementation and integration.”

Ericsson’s aggressive moves toward fostering active growth in the area of Mobile Internet mirror many similar initiatives launched by players such as Nokia, Optus and Telstra. Carriers and technology providers are keen to avoid the fate of WAP, the data service which dramatically flopped, due to a lack of practical services and sluggish performance, combined with preposterously high access fees.

An Optus representative declined to comment on the timelines for the release of upcoming Mobile Internet Applications, but highlighted publicly announced solutions in development such as a system being trialed in the ACT which allows traffic police to use GPRS handsets to run realtime criminal background checks on the licence plates and licence numbers of motorists.

A Telstra representative also declined to comment on timelines for the release of Mobile Internet Applications, but confirmed that numerous projects were in the pipeline for future release.

Ericsson showed material from various 2.5g “push” technologies being developed by companies involved in the Mobility World initiative, such as a sports opinion poll application in the process of development by developer ArtSim. Other examples included applications like location-based services, which could aggressively alert drivers approaching a traffic jam, offering a visual map displaying a detour route. Also, the hot topic of discussion, the issue “location-based marketing” was raised. Applications like this involve retail stores sending you information when you are in the vicinity of their outlets, offering special offers or product notifications. It was stressed that services like this would need to be opt-in, that is, the user would need to specifically request such services to have them activated.

Unlike WAP services, GPRS is much like broadband or cable Internet in that the connection is “always on” as far as the user is concerned. There is no waiting for a “log-on” process to occur. GPRS also offers superior transmission speeds. As a result the GPRS mobile Internet applications are noticeably faster than their WAP-based counterparts.

A key question mark concerning the deployment of 2.5g applications is how well the mobile carriers’ networks will handle the increase in network traffic created by this new level of data transmission required for most 2.5g applications. MMS messages will have an average transmitted size of ten to fifty kilobytes, versus the existing size of less than one kilobyte used for the existing text-only SMS messages that most users are familiar with. This potential “factor of fifty” increase could pose unforseen problems for carriers.

GPRS (General Packet Radio Service), is the transmission technology required for this “2.5 g” level of interactivity. GPRS support has been launched by the majority of mobile carriers in Australia. However, aggressive 2.5g applications have largely failed to materialise as yet. Offerings such as Optus’s Mobile Email functionality (requiring a GPRS phone and a PDA) do exist, but so to date they have been largely targeted at niche corporate customers.

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