What's beyond 3G? 3.5G, stupid

Operators looking to next stage - and it's not just about speed
Written by Tony Hallett, Contributor

Operators looking to next stage - and it's not just about speed

With 2004 looking like the year of widespread launches of 3G cellular networks based on the W-CDMA standard, experts have identified what's mostly likely to come next.

HSDPA - or (take a breath now) High Speed Downlink Packet Access - is already in the sights of W-CDMA pioneer NTT DoCoMo for a Japan launch around this time next year and it will be the 3.5G choice of other operators, according to ARC Group.

Researchers put HSDPA's use alongside that of other faster data transfer technologies such as the TDD flavour of W-CDMA and proprietary options such as Flash OFDM. ARC forecasts a combined user base for these of 9.1 million by 2008.

But while speed will be a key driver, other reasons for their uptake include integration with wireless LAN technology.

Chris White, ARC telecoms consultant, said in a statement that this integration is "one of the vital stepping stones to 4G".

HSDPA is expected to allow downlink data speeds five times faster than the 3G networks being rolled out now. Most vendors are shipping W-CDMA equipment with HSDPA built in and operators are planning trials for the end of this year.

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