3G: Are you planning for what comes next?

The operators certainly are...
Written by Jo Best, Contributor

The operators certainly are...

Some of the biggest names in mobile have clubbed together to think up just what they're planning as the successor to 3G.

Operators including China Mobile, NTT DoCoMo, Orange, T-Mobile and Vodafone have all signed up to the Next Generation Networks Mobile Initiative (NGNMI). The NGNMI, now a UK company, will be charged with hammering out a roadmap for the mobile networks beyond the likes of UMTS in Europe and EV-DO in the US.

Which technologies are likely to succeed the pair haven't yet been revealed but the NGNMI has listed a set of characteristics the next gaggle of mobile standards must adhere to, including backwards compatibility with legacy networks, cheap set-up and maintenance costs and low latency coupled with high data rates.

Some operators have already started laying plans for what comes next. Sprint Nextel, a US operator and member of the NGNMI, has publicly committed to rolling out WiMax, calling it a '4G network'.

Most in the mobile industry would disagree that WiMax should be dubbed a fourth-generation technology. According to standards body the ITU, an arm of the UN, 4G must have data rates of 100Mbps when mobile and 1Gbps when devices are still.

Both Japan's NTT DoCoMo and Samsung claim to be already working on technologies that fit the bill, with rollouts scheduled for the end of the decade.

In the meantime, 3G take-up continues its upward trajectory. According to the latest figures from analyst In-Stat, by 2010 there will be one billion users of third-generation mobile networks across the globe. By the end of this year, 167 million people will have signed up to use 3G - still a small proportion of the more than two billion mobile subscriptions out there.

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