More acronyms and choices - as if there weren't enough alreadyUncertainties about the future development of 3G mobile means a number of alternatives are on operators' agendas, some below and some above promised 3G speeds.
A range of research out this week suggests some operators will offer so-called 2.75G and start working towards 3.5G.
Mobile analysts EMC have predicted GSM enhancement EDGE - so-called 2.75G as it sits between 2.5G GPRS networks and W-CDMA 3G - will see the light of day around the world next year.
It is already in six countries with seven operators - AIS in Thailand, AT&T Wireless and Cingular in the US, AT&T Wireless in Bermuda and Puerto Rico, CSL in Hong Kong and Telefonica Moviles in Chile - and has more than 50 operators committed to deploying it.
Meanwhile ARC Group has found that although there are teething problems with 3G roll outs, eyes are already on 3.5G based on High Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA), Time Division Duplex (TDD) and proprietary technologies such as Flash OFDM.
W-CDMA pioneer NTT DoCoMo in Japan is already planning HSDPA services for 2005 and spoke about the technology at the recent ITU Telecom World event in October.
Cambridge-based Analysys has predicted W-CDMA-based 3G must start to pay back investments soon or else other technologies will commercially take the initiative.
"Compared with three years ago, when W-CDMA was the only game in town, operators are now facing up to the possibility that they may need to adopt alternative wireless technologies to deliver the sorts of advanced data services that their customers are demanding and which their investors expect to generate higher average revenue per user," said Alastair Brydon, co-author of Analysys' The Role and Impact of Emerging Wireless Technologies report in a statement.
It cites EDGE, WLAN, 802.16e, 802.20 and broadband wireless access technologies from the likes of Arraycom, Flarion and Navini as challengers.
The eventual move to 4G networks will see the combining of cellular mobile and public WLAN technologies at great speeds. However, analysts tend to agree that move won't happen until near the decade's end.
EMC's 'EDGE - Bridging the gap between GPRS and W-CDMA' report is out now as is ARC's Future Mobile Networks.