Getting ready for the next generation of cell phones

Cell phone vendors are in a constant tug-of-war over which technology will enable voice and data connections at vastly improved rates. In one corner are the proponents of 1xRTT CDMA.

Cell phone vendors are in a constant tug-of-war over which technology will enable voice and data connections at vastly improved rates.

In one corner are the proponents of 1xRTT CDMA. This technology forms the basis for the 3G wireless standards and is designed to support always-on data transmission speeds of up to 10 times faster than typically available today--up to a maximum of 153.6 kbps. In the other corner is GPRS, the next iteration of GSM, which is the dominant technology used in Europe. GPRS is expected to offer packet connections at rates of up to 14.4 kbps, going up to a possible data rate of 115 kbps by displacing voice channels with data traffic.

Vendors at Internet World Fall 2001 are hedging their bets by playing both sides of the field. For example, Sierra Wireless is now releasing the AirCard 555, its next-generation 1xRTT CDMA wireless network card. According to a Sierra spokesperson, 1xRTT CDMA networks may become available in limited markets as early as January. However, more widespread adoption isn't expected until June at the earliest. The company is also producing CDMA 1xRTT embedded modules for PDAs, which are expected to appear in a new Toshiba product sometime next year.

Meanwhile, Sierra Wireless will release its first GSM product, the AirCard 700 Series, in February 2002 in France. The AirCard 700 Series will be a preliminary GPRS model that will be backward compatible to GSM. A U.S. launch is expected sometime next year. Although GSM has not done very well in the U.S. market, GPRS could prove a strong contender.

GoAmerica is also looking toward the possibility of running on GPRS in the future, depending on the availability of nationwide coverage and which carriers provide that service. "We'll do a deal with whoever steps up first," says Jamie Proctor, director of business development.

Meanwhile, GoAmerica has been adding a number of new features to its wireless business solutions package The company recently updated its client software, Go.Web, to version 6.0, which now includes a Queue-Manager that lets users work with their e-mail and other applications even when they're outside a coverage area. GoAmerica has also introduced a suite of applications called Mobile Office, which includes a document manager (providing the ability to read attachments on wireless devices), corporate instant messaging, and access to group applications such as Lotus Domino and Microsoft Exchange.

Microsoft has also been busy in the mobile arena. The company recently introduced the latest version of its PDA OS, PocketPC 2002, which allows PDA users to synchronize e-mail, calendar, and contact data wirelessly with Exchange 2000 servers. Mobile Information Server 2002, Enterprise Edition is just out of beta and should be available in about a month. The product offers the ability to connect with all WAP-enabled phones. IT administrators can secure their Pocket PC connections with either IPSec or SSL. Client access licenses are $70 each.