commentary You can't blame wireless carrier Unwired for feeling a little left out in the last few weeks. Several of the broadband seller's giant competitors have spent that time detailing their plans to provide mobile broadband over networks based on the 3G GSM standard, with some investigating next-generation HSDPA services on the back of the GSM networks.
commentary You can't blame wireless carrier Unwired for feeling a little
left out in the last few weeks. Several of the broadband seller's giant competitors have spent
that time detailing their plans to provide mobile broadband over
networks based on the 3G GSM standard, with some investigating
next-generation HSDPA services on the back of the GSM
In contrast, Unwired is the principal local champion of the
WiMAX standard, the mobile version of which is expected to be
ratified later this year.
However in the light of the billions of dollars Optus,
Vodafone, Hutchison and especially Telstra have been and will be
putting into 3G infrastructure, WiMAX's position in Australia is
looking a little unsteady.
In particular, Telstra's media blitz this week, which
highlighted the fact the telco will consolidate its three mobile
networks to a single national 3G GSM network -- appeared to have
Telstra claimed the network could eventually deliver up to
14Mbps wireless broadband speeds to customers, using the HSDPA
standard which Vodafone is already basing some international
But shortly after Telstra's news hit the street, Unwired fired
off a statement attacking Telstra's technology base.
"HSDPA/3G is an underpowered technology which will not meet
the needs of people looking for a broadband equivalent wireless
service," said the statement in the name of chief technical
officer Eric Hamilton.
"While in theory a [3G connection] can support 14.4Mbps of
traffic, tests have shown that the real throughput is little
better than 3Mbps," he added.
This, Hamilton alleged, was well under the speeds offered by
WiMAX as well as Unwired's current proprietary solution from
There is some truth to Hamilton's statements -- WiMAX does
indeed have the potential to offer both higher speeds and more
reliable connections than services based on 3G GSM/HSDPA.
And although neither Telstra nor Vodafone, which is trialling
HSDPA, are actually selling HSDPA-based services yet, neither is
Unwired yet selling speeds higher than 1.5Mbps itself -- and it's
not selling anything at all outside Sydney.
When the larger telcos do launch HSDPA services, they'll be
launching on the back of their rapidly expanding 3G networks --
which in Telstra's and its partner Hutchison's case already reach
to all the major capital cities.
But Unwired's problems don't stop there -- its survival as a
profitable business is still far from assured.
The company has so far signed up only half of the customers it
needs to break even on its Sydney business, let alone elsewhere.
Around 30,000 Sydney customers are still needed.
Sadly, it's a well-known fact that the better technology
doesn't always win. And in this case the opportunity for the
larger carriers to combine their mobile phone and wireless
broadband services into one network is extremely attractive.
What do you think? Will wireless broadband based on 3G/HSDPA
become a significant force in Australia? Or will WiMAX win the
day? Send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.