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O2 sorts out high-speed wireless

mmO2 is attempting to get its house in order when it comes to high-speed wireless technologies
Written by Jo Best, Contributor
Mobile operator mmO2 has been sorting out where it will be setting out its stall for the alphabet soup of connectivity of the future.

EDGE, for one, is out, as is the company's own Wi-Fi network, due to a lack of business case, according to the operator.

HSDPA, however, has most emphatically got the thumbs-up. HSDPA, or high speed downlink packet access, has been called 3.5G, a term O2 CTO David Williams rejects. "This is really 3G as it should be -- it's 3G as it should have been designed," he said.

The HSDPA rollout will boost 3G speeds from a standard 384Kbps to speeds more around the 1Mbps mark. It will start the rollout this year in the UK -- the Isle of Man is the debut site -- and next year across its properties.

The company claims it's the first European commercial deployment of an HSDPA network. "I believe all operators will have it in 2006," Williams said. "It's a simple software upgrade."

O2's HSDPA will make its presence felt initially on laptop data cards, to be followed by smart phones in 2006.

As well as hooking consumers on mobile broadband, Williams said it would bring the company "cost efficiencies", but declined to say if those would be passed on to customers.

Another acronym featuring big on the ex-BT property's hit-list is IP. The mobile operator is planning to build an IP digital mobile multimedia core network, with Siemens being chosen to build the IP multimedia subsystem (IMS) for mmO2.

The company will be rolling out IMS-based services later this year, which are intended to "rich it up", Williams said -- adding presence information, chat and sharing capabilities to multimedia services and introducing new applications including push-to-talk.

WiMax, on the other hand, is being investigated but with no plans to launch as yet.

"There's a lot of hype about WiMax. We're trialling it in Ireland; if it works for O2, we'll deploy it," Williams said.

One thing that definitely doesn't work for the company is Bluephone -- a handset that will make mobile, landline and VoIP calls.

"We tried Bluephone in a number of homes," Williams said. "A product has got to be superior to what was there before. When it's got wireless LAN technology in it... it will be a far better proposition."

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