Qualcomm provides Super 3G's missing uplink

The company claims success in testing HSUPA, which should provide an uplink speed to match HSDPA's downlink and may shut mobile WiMax out of the market

Qualcomm has successfully completed a test call using HSUPA (High Speed Uplink Packet Access), the missing uplink in super-3G.

The technology promises to provide speeds comparable to the downlink speeds of HSDPA (High Speed Downlink Packet Access).

According to Qualcomm, the test calls achieved an uplink speed of 2Mbps, compared to the 64Kbps uplink speed offered by 3G services such as HSDPA.

One of the drawbacks of HSDPA as a true broadband replacement has been its unsuitability for sending large amounts of data quickly, which is where HSUPA comes in.

"We can probably assume it'll be about the same rate as HSDPA on the uplink [in real-world conditions]," John Delaney, chief analyst with Ovum, told ZDNet UK on Wednesday.

However, Delaney cautioned that, as Qualcomm is "not part of the GSM camp… the real impact of testing HSUPA will be when it comes from one of the more mainstream GSM vendors".

"If Qualcomm is using this as a kind of wedge to drive GSM operators towards their kit, then that's unlikely to work," he added.

Delaney's comments drew an angry response from Qualcomm Europe's president, Andrew Gilbert, who called them "absolute rubbish".

"The reality is that Qualcomm has been instrumental and taken a leadership position in moving W-CDMA [the base technology for 3G] to upgrade itself with HSDPA and now HSUPA," he told ZDNet UK on Wednesday. "We were not part of the GSM brigade, but we've very much been a driving force for W-CDMA take-up and we've enabled consumer choice and driven down prices."

Gilbert claimed GSM was becoming less popular in Europe due to 3G handsets, saying: "People like the [3G] handsets and the operators like to use it as it's very high capacity."

Gilbert also said it was a "safe conclusion to draw" that the 10 manufacturers working on HSUPA-capable datacards and handsets based on Qualcomm's chipset included some of its pre-existing 3G chipset customers — although he declined to name names.

"We see HSDPA already in datacards and it's quite right that HSUPA will follow. Into next year you'll see HSUPA datacards and handsets," he added.

Touting HSUPA's potential for interactivity, Gilbert said: "We can start meeting the needs of the MySpace generation, the guys who want to upload pictures or movie clips to their own webspace. You can get a much more exciting user experience — it's really going to change the dynamic."

Success for HSUPA could also spell trouble for the take-up of mobile WiMax, which is probably still a couple of years away from the market.

"I don't see mobile WiMax as a threat — I can only see something as a threat if I can actually use it," Gilbert said. "WiMax can only penetrate… if it has something new and different to offer."

He claimed that, by the time mobile WiMax becomes widely available, "HSxPA" technologies would have evolved further into what he termed HSPA+, with "further enhancements using MIMO and receive diversity".

"It's difficult for me to see, even if WiMax does deliver, where it's going to fit in the mobile world," Gilbert added.

David Pringle, of the GSM Association, also told ZDNet UK that success with HSUPA would be "an example of why the European Commission and others need to be thinking about the evolution of these advanced services" — a reference to the current row over spectrum that the GSMA wants reserved for 3G technologies rather than mobile WiMax.