Orange beats rivals to high-speed mobile data - Part 2

Proprietary technology gives mobile company a year's lead over Vodafone, One to One, BT Cellnet.

Part 1

Long term Orange competitor Vodafone said that although it has the technology to roll out HSCSD "if we choose to do so", there are no firm plans to offer commercial HSCSD services. A spokesman did say the company is committed to commercial GPRS services, which it would be rolling out sometime next year.

BT Cellnet has no plans to upgrade its network to HSCSD, believing GPRS will make the technology redundant. A spokesman told ZDNN: "We will have full commercial GPRS services before spring next year."

Simon Rockman, publisher of What Mobile magazine reckons BT's optimism hides the real story. "I think that if we see such services within the next year we'll be lucky," he said. "Both Vodafone and Cellnet are talking up GPRS because they don't have HSCSD."

Rockman believes each network is doing its best to leapfrog each other in the race to get to the ultimate third generation technology, UMTS, which will offer data rates up to 2Mbit/sec. "HSCSD is important to Orange in the race for UMTS licenses as it shows that they understand how to roll out the technology, giving them the advantage in the final beauty contest," he said.

But the race towards UMTS gets more interesting, according to Rockman, who suggests Orange may choose to bypass GPRS "and jump straight to EDGE (Enhanced Packet Switching Technology), the final stage before UMTS." He added: "there is no certainty that GPRS will be any better than scaled up HSCSD in the future."

Acronym city

GPRS

  • Maximum speeds of 171.2kbit/s using all eight timeslots at the same time -- gives instant connections with no dial-up necessary.

  • Works by overlaying a packet based air interface over exiting circuit switched GSM network.

  • Packet switching means that resources are only tied up when users are sending or receiving data. That means, for example, a radio channel can be shared between several users. To implement GPRS services, network operators must install new hardware, including a packet based Mobile Switching Centre.

HSCSD

  • GSM supports one user per channel per time slot, HSCSD gives a single user simultaneous access to multiple channels at the same time.

  • Easier to implement than GPRS as network operators only need to do a software upgrade of base stations.

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