O2 has become the first UK network operator to officially adopt the high-speed mobile broadband technology HSDPA, the operator said today. The rollout will start on a small scale on its network on the Isle of Man, which has a population of some 75,000.
The technology will be launched in conjunction with O2's local subsidiary, mobile operator Manx Telecom, and Lucent on 1 November. O2 is promising its Manx customers mobile connectivity of up to 1.3Mbps, with a theoretical maximum of up to 14.4Mbps, dependent on the technical limitations of the devices involved.
Much like 3G's initial appearance, the debut of HSDPA in the UK will be aimed at business customers and be initially used for laptop data card connectivity.
O2 is planning a more extensive trial of HSDPA at the start of 2006 in both the UK and Germany, with a full launch pencilled in for the second half of the year, an O2 spokesman said.
T-Mobile, however, was the first UK network operator to make its plans for a rollout on the mainland explicit. Earlier this month, T-Mobile CTO Hamid Akhavan said HSDPA connectivity will be available to the network's customers from next year.
HSDPA — sometimes dubbed 3.5G or super-3G — technology will make the transition from hype to widespread reality as early as 2006, analysts believe.
According to research firm IDC, most operators in the UK will launch their HSDPA offerings in the first few months of 2006, with 40 million users in western Europe expected to be getting their connectivity sometime next year.
With the launch of 3.5G following so soon after most operators launched their 3G networks — in some cases, a little over a year later — IDC believes the sudden shift towards HSDPA could be a signal operators are trying to put up a bulwark against next-generation network technologies, such as mobile WiMax or Flash OFDM, by offering faster data rates.
Nevertheless, HSDPA will bring some obvious benefits, including a more cost-effective use of networks, faster speeds, boosted throughput and more user capacity.