Maxis to unveil 'Super 3G' by year-end

The Malaysian telco is joined by Hong Kong's 3, in offering one of the first HSDPA services in the Asia-Pacific region.

Malaysian telco Maxis has fully integrated HSDPA (high speed download packet access) into its 3G (Third-Generation) cellular network.

According to a media statement, Maxis is expected to launch HSDPA services later this year. This makes Maxis one of the first telcos in Asia, excluding Japan, to offer HSDPA, also known as 'Super 3G'. In Japan, NTT DoCoMo is in the midst of deploying HSDPA, while eMobile and Vodafone have planned for similar services in the country.

Maxis will only offer its HSDPA service, when it is launched by year-end, to consumers in Malaysia's Klang Valley. The price of the new service was not available at press time.

With initial data access speeds of up to 1.8 Mbps (mega bits per second), subscribers of the Maxis service can expect improved mobile broadband access to the Web, e-mail, video streaming, online gaming and music downloads. HSDPA is tipped to be almost five times faster than 3G, and more than 10 times faster than EDGE (enhanced data for global evolution) networks.

Maxis said it is currently undertaking technical trials, and has achieved peak data transmission speeds of 1.6 Mbps so far. The company added that with future network upgrades, HSDPA should be able to support peak download rates of up to 14Mbps.

Sweden's Ericsson is supplying the network gear for Maxis' HSDPA services.

Edward Ying, chief operating officer of Maxis, said "We see HSDPA as a key factor in differentiating ourselves from other 3G operators. The technology will allow Maxis to deliver richer services and applications at faster speeds."

"We are on track with our launch plans for HSDPA and aim to offer mobile broadband, and eventually residential broadband services, within our existing 3G coverage areas," Ying explained. "This strategy, in line with our investments in new technologies, would allow us to offer the advantages of mobile broadband connections anytime and anywhere".

As of Mar. 7 this year, only six HSDPA networks support commercially available services, including Cingular Wireless in the United States and O2 on the Isle of Man.

In the Asia-Pacific region, China, South Korea, Japan, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan and Australia, are among several countries which plan to roll out HSDPA networks, or are in the midst of doing so.

High speeds in Hong Kong, too
In a separate announcement Thursday, Hong Kong mobile operator, 3, said it has completed HSDPA trials based on NEC's network equipment.

Amy Lung, commercial director of consumer market at 3 Hong Kong, said in a statement: "With the successful trial and network rollout, we are well positioned to be the first to provide 3 Hong Kong's supporters with supremely enhanced mobile communications experience, once the HSDPA compatible devices are available."

Indeed, hardware vendors are ramping up efforts to build such devices. HSDPA PC cards are already available, while HSDPA-enabled handsets will be released to the market later this year.

In February, Lenovo signed a deal with Vodafone to enable its laptops to support 3G, GPRS (general packet radio service) and HSDPA connectivity. Last December, Vodafone, Samsung and Qualcomm also inked a deal to deliver HSDPA handsets.

Gartner predicts that sales of HSDPA handsets will reach 6.3 million this year and jump to 102 million by 2009.

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