January 10, 2008 9:56 AM PST

3.5G driving rapid mobile broadband growth

The wireless network technology known as 3.5G is driving mobile broadband growth around the globe, accompanied by rollouts of an increasing number of commercial networks using the 3.5G transmission protocol.

The number of commercial 3.5G networks--also known as High-Speed Downlink Packet Access, or HSDPA, networks--launched worldwide grew by 69 percent last year, according to a survey by the Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA), which represents suppliers of GSM/3G network services.

There are now 166 commercial HSDPA networks in 75 countries. An additional 38 networks are committed to rollouts, which will bump the total to 204 HSDPA networks in 89 countries, said the GSA.

Commercial HSDPA networks are widely available in Western Europe (61 networks), Southeast Asia (35), Eastern Europe (34), the Middle East and Africa (20), and the Americas and the Caribbean (16).

HSDPA is a beefed up variant of 3G network technology capable of delivering downlink speeds of up to a theoretical maximum of 7.2Mbps. Typical speeds achieved are between 800Kbps and 3Mbps.

The GSA said the rise of 3.5G is driving mobile broadband services globally, adding that operators of High-Speed Packet Access, or HSPA--referring to both HSDPA and HSUPA (High-Speed Uplink Packet Access))--networks around the world are reporting strong subscription growth and increased profitability.

But it's not just network numbers: downlink speeds also are on the rise, the survey found.

Almost two-thirds (62 percent) of existing commercial HSDPA networks support downlink speeds of 3.6Mbps or more, while more than a fifth (21 percent) support the peak downlink speed of 7.2Mbps.

HSUPA is rarer than HSDPA, with just 26 commercial networks launched in 22 countries. But there is evidence that momentum is building here too, as all these launches occurred last year, with the vast majority taking place in the past six months.

The report added that almost 60 percent of HSPA operators combine with the GSM (Global System for Mobile communications) and EDGE (Enhanced Data GSM Environment) network standards to bolster their network coverage.

Thomas Husson, senior analyst at Jupiter Research, backs the view that HSDPA is driving mobile broadband globally, though he said the market is still in its infancy. "It clearly is the logical next step in mobile broadband evolution and in Western Europe it will gain significant adoption moving forward," he told Silicon.com.

Meanwhile, WiMax, a rival service billed as a 4G technology, is not likely to be a threat to 3.5G in Western Europe until at least the end of the decade, according to Husson.

He pointed to the fact many HSDPA rollouts can be achieved by a software upgrade to existing 3G networks, giving 3.5G a headstart over WiMax, which requires dedicated network infrastructure. At present there are just two commercial mobile WiMax networks in the world, both in Korea.

Rising sales of HSPA-enabled mobiles--aided by more-generous-than-expected operator subsidies of the hardware--are helping to drive the 3.5G market in Western Europe, according to Husson. Most new 3G phones will be HSPA-enabled moving forward, he said.

"The launch of HSUPA will enable customers to upload content from their handsets to the networks, which will be increasingly important with the growing adoption of user-generated content and the rise of mobile social networking," Husson added.

Natasha Lomas of Silicon.com reported from London.

See more CNET content tagged:
HSDPA, Western Europe, rollout, 3G network, broadband

2 comments

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Apple's 1st iPhone should have been HSPA!
*nm*
Posted by libertyforall1776 (650 comments )
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shift to 4G
Korea is enjoying 4G now, while the rest of the world is moving to 3.5G now.In other words, 4G phones cannot be compatible with AT&T and Verizon networks. Sprint is test-launching 4G in Chicago, Baltimore and Washington D.C. Meantime, AT&T and Verizon adopted LTE as 4G, and LTE won't be commercially available until 2015.In USA you can hardly get a download speed of 10 Mbps even with fiber optic Internet service, while in Korea, they get a download speed of over 40 Mbps at every home.

Sprint had rejected a $5 billion investment offer from SK Telecom, which is one of the two mobile WiMAX front runners in the world. Instead, they are working with a group of companies with no WiMAX deployment experinece at all. Hope they won't run into any single trial and error in their deployment and implementation schemes.
Posted by Quemannn (76 comments )
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