Bell Mobility set to offer high-speed data in 2005 Judging from the TV ads, advanced wireless data is the preserve of young people, all busily downloading ringtones, exchanging photos, and playing games. But the high-speed wireless networks that will begin to appear in Canada this year hold promise for enterprises as well—and not just for entertainment during breaksThe next step in cellular data will take users from speeds comparable to dialup Internet access to something close to DSL or cable modem speeds. This will permit use of a much broader and more sophisticated range of business applications on cellphones, Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs), and wireless-equipped laptops, without the need to find and gain access to a Wi-Fi hotspot. Bell Mobility has promised to launch service this year on Canada’s first Third Generation (3G) data network, with speeds roughly six times faster than anything available from cellular carriers today—close to wireless LAN speeds. Third Generation3G is a term used for advanced wireless networks that offer data speeds comparable to landline DSL Internet connections. 3G is not a technology but a target: data speeds of 2 Mbps in a stationary setting and 384 Kbps in a mobile environment. (See box) For consumers, that means video clips on demand, television, streaming music, satellite navigation and high-quality games, as well as the ability to record and send short videos. For enterprises, 3G promises to make it possible and practical to use most desktop applications, including those accessing the corporate database, on mobile devices such as smartphones, Personal Digital Assistants (PDA), and laptops, using only a cellular connection. The new technology will also enable cellular providers to deal with the anticipated increases in wireless data, as more customers adopt and exploit new services. Great predictions were made for 3G, leading many carriers, particularly in Europe, to grossly overspend for 3G spectrum. But the deployment of 3G networks has lagged behind predictions. 3G made its debut in Europe and Asia, while it has been slow to arrive in North America. There are now about 60 3G networks up and running worldwide, with another 60 in the planning stages. Meanwhile, Canada’s existing less-than-3G cellular data services have won limited but growing usage. Rogers Wireless noted in its 4Q 2004 earnings report that 6.7% of its network revenue was derived from wireless data services. Bell says that data usage accounted for half its 2004 growth in average revenue per user. Three Roads to Higher SpeedIn Canada, carriers have taken different approaches in their evolution toward 3G: Bell aims to streak ahead in terms of speed, while Rogers has achieved national and world coverage for a somewhat slower technology, and Telus is for the moment standing pat with a technology launched in 2002. In December 2004, Bell Mobility announced it was beginning to build out its Evolution, Data Optimized (EV-DO) network, a 3G evolution of its CDMA technology. EV-DO offers average sustained speeds of about 500 Kbps, with peak speeds of 2.4 Mbps (evolving to 3.1 Mbps). By comparison, Bell currently offers 1XRTT data service at speeds in the range of 100 Kbps. Bell says its high-speed DSL downloads at 3 Mbps and uploads at 256 Kbps. Meanwhile, Rogers Wireless has completed its migration to Enhanced Data Rates for Global Evolution (EDGE), which brought wireless data to average speeds of 100-150 Kbps with bursts up to 384 Kbps—three times faster than those previously available on Rogers’ GPRS network. Although a significant improvement from previous iterations, this is not yet true 3G. After the successful trials in 2003, Rogers rolled out its EDGE network across Canada last year. Rogers claims that its customers using EDGE-capable devices have access to the fastest national wireless data network in the country. Customers also enjoy high-speed access to the network from their laptops using a dual-band, dual-mode Sony Ericsson GC82 EDGE PC card. Rogers offers multi-function EDGE handsets at a low price in return for a three-year contract. For example, the latest EDGE-capable phone, the Sony Ericsson Z500a, is available for $80 with a three-year contract or $290 without the commitment. Prices are dropping: only last year, a less sophisticated Z600 model sold for almost $400. Telus Mobility launched its 1XRTT data service in June 2002, delivering speeds slightly better than dialup, and later extended its coverage through a mutual roaming agreement with Bell. Telus has declined to make any statements about its 3G plans, but it has kept pace with Bell data services in the past. It’s a good bet that Bell’s present move to 3G will exert enough competitive pressure to lead Telus to announce comprehensive 3G plans in the not-too-distant future. Telemanagement asked all three of Canada’s major cellcos to discuss their high-speed data plans. Bell and Rogers agreed; Telus declined to grant an interview. Rogers: Coverage FirstWith high-speed 3G technology coming late to North America, many felt the carriers had lots of catching up to do. But David Neale, Rogers Wireless vice-president of new product development, insists that this is no longer the case. "In Canada, we are probably ahead now, with the exception of Japan and South Korea. We are actually in the unusual situation that every one of the base stations in our network is 3G-capable," he says. "What’s happening in Europe is partial deployments in major metropolitan centres, where you have a population density that makes it cost effective, and some rollout in suburban areas. But they would not consider high-speed in the less dense areas." Bell Mobility is following a similar pattern with its EV-DO network. Also, Rogers says that the CDMA technology used by Bell and Telus does not offer extensive coverage outside North America, which forces their customers into renting costly loaners while on the road. On the other hand, Rogers uses the GSM standard, which is more widely deployed beyond Canada’s borders. Customers using a tri-band phone have access to networks around the globe when they travel. And businesses can use these phones to serve global market. "I use exactly the same device when I’m in Hong Kong, Europe, or Peterborough," says Neale. While Rogers’ EDGE rivals the speed of Telus and Bell’s current networks (all speed estimates are quite approximate), it will not match Bell’s EV-DO offering. The next step in Rogers’ long-term plan, Neale said, is to a GSM-based 3G standard called UMTS. But he would not say when UMTS would make its debut in Canada. Further down the road, both UMTS and EV-DO may be surpassed by a new GSM technology with yet another acronym—HSDPA (High-Speed Downlink Packet Access)—which is to achieve download rates of 9 Mbps. It was demonstrated at the 3GSM World Congress in Cannes February 14-17. But What Can It Do?Neale avoids talking about EDGE as a technology or a speed limit, insisting it’s more about the kinds of things the wireless carrier can put in customers’ hands. Stressing the technology "doesn’t mean a great deal and so it just becomes an acronym," he says. "The best way to explain the service is to show applications that people can look at and relate to," Neale says. High-speed Internet access sets a precedent: "It’s a matter of getting these services on a tiny handheld that fits in your pocket." In the U.S., several cellular networks offer pay services from streaming video news clips and GPS navigation to headlines and music downloads, not to mention Sesame Street and online dating. In Japan, where UTMS is available, it has sparked a myriad of advanced services. Ride a train in Tokyo and just about every passenger is feverishly tapping away on cellular keypads, calling up everything from video-on-demand to a Nikkei stock market quote ticker. And yes, a 3G device will also work as a telephone, although voice should become a smaller part of the billing equation. In the longer term, the wireless data network will carry the voice calls, using voice over IP. Cellular providers dream of an electronic Swiss Army knife that performs multiple tasks while fitting in a back pocket. The handset would act as a Web browser, television, video-conference device, news centre, personal assistant, and fund transfer tool or credit card. Bell Banks on SpeedBell Mobility’s EV-DO network is expected to available to users in the second half of 2005, along with EV-DO-capable PC cards, PDAs, and handsets. "You will have the convergence of speed and bandwidth as well as the capabilities of the devices in terms of screens, colour, and processing power," said Adel Bazerghi, Bell Mobility vice-president of wireless technology development. "There are a number of applications, but we have just started to scratch the surface when it comes to the small screen," Bazerghi says. "Think of having a device that will enable you to download and launch an attachment in full colour, which is something that you don’t have in other devices. In the enterprise, applications that require a lot of data transfer are going to be enabled, and this will really energize the mobile workforce." Telus PausesTelus’s existing cellular data, based on 1XRTT, offers a 1X mobile computing solution called Velocity Wireless. The company describes the offering as an all-in-one mobile solution offering easy access to the Internet, corporate networks, and e-mail using laptops or PDAs. Its 1X service delivers peak Internet access speeds of 144 Kbps in ideal usage conditions, although typical throughput is approximately 60 Kbps. The service is available in major urban centres across Canada, including Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, and Quebec City. An agreement with Bell Mobility helped complete Telus’ national expansion, but there is no sign yet that it will include access to EV-DO. While Telus stands pat with 1X, Bell has been working to get EV-DO on the minds of executives in several vertical industries, including hospitals, insurance companies, and law enforcement. Enterprise ApplicationsThe uses of high-speed mobile data go "from the simplest form of just using a handset and having a specified browser for enterprise applications all the way to specialized solutions," Bazerghi says. "For example, in law enforcement, with its very tight security, we used specialized trunking, Internet, and integrated solutions with wireless modems, card readers, and laptops." In some cases, the applications may be used for information relays, as when highly skilled workers such as insurance adjusters remain at their desks while less skilled employees travel to claim scenes and transmit data back to the office using streaming video cellular phones. While text messaging remains a popular and cost-effective cellular data tool—most estimates put the number of messages flying around the globe at more than one billion daily—other applications such as photography and news updates are gaining ground. "In some areas such as dispatch, it’s as simple as using a PDA or a handset browser, while in others such as fleet tracking, there is a need for specialized modems and GPS receivers, which need to be put together by systems integrators," Bazerghi says. "In the short term and with general enterprises, we are seeing personal information management automation and transmission of colour attachments, along with sales forces accessing databases and company records on the fly." While much of this activity is taking place on a laptop that allows the user to utilize the power of a computer, there is also much activity in developing new and more powerful PDAs and smartphones. Other applications and services, such as enterprise resource planning software, customer relationship management, and proprietary database applications will also benefit from the increased speed and capacity. On-the-road sales forces will be able to access all customer data quickly and easily to place orders, manage contracts, and provide up-to-date information. High-speed cellular data promises to give enterprise users anytime, anywhere access to the same applications they use at their desk, plus new applications crafted for mobile use. The technology is not quite here yet, but it’s on the way—a factor to consider when planning the long-range evolution of enterprise wireless use. The Generations of Wireless1G, 2G, and 3G refer to successive generations in the development of cellular technology. They have spawned a dizzying array of acronyms, the spelled-out meaning of which has been generally forgotten. 1G (First Generation) refers to the original wireless systems introduced about 1978, using AMPS technology, and providing only analog transmission.  2G (Second Generation) refers to Personal Communications Services, which started up in Canada in 1997. They featured three rival technologies—GSM (Microcell), CDMA (Bell and Telus), and TDMA (Rogers)—and digital transmission, providing data speeds in the order of 10 Kbps.  2.5G (Second-and-a-Half Generation) refers to upgrades of 2G digital service, introduced in 2002—1XRTT for Bell and Telus CDMA networks and GPRS for Rogers’ network, which had by then migrated to GSM. In 2004, Rogers upgraded its data service to EDGE. Data speeds are in the order of 100 Kbps.  3G (Third Generation) refers to a target of data transmission at about one megabit per second. GSM networks support UMTS 3G data; CDMA networks support EV-DO.