Vodafone to demonstrate HSDPA

, posted: 19-Apr-2006 12:27

Vodafone will show High Speed Downlink Packet Access - HSDPA - to media here tomorrow. My slot with Phil Patel, Vodafone's director of business markets, is tomorrow afternoon, and it'll be interesting to get a hands-on demonstration of the new technology. There's be a great deal of hype surrounding HSDPA, like how it actually performs. The 14.4Mbit/s maximum figure isn't achievable apparently. So far, I've only seen much lower speeds reported, ranging from a low 400-600kbit/s to a high 3Mbit/s. Tomorrow will tell.

Other HSDPA issues I intend to look at include:

  • Latency: will it be improved compared to the fairly high 200ms plus on the existing 3G service?
  • Upstream speed: the HSDPA products I've seen, like this Novatel Merlin data card, are specified at 384kbit/s uploads. Will Vodafone's network support that speed though? Currently, the 3G service only manages 64kbit/s up, which is very low especially for data card usage. I asked Vodafone's data products marketing manager Fraser King about this, and he said the low upstream speed was due to the handsets... sending data is costly in terms of battery life, basically. The low upstream speed makes Vodafone's Mobile Data Card less useful to its target audience than e.g. Telecom's EV-DO equivalent, which easily manages 120kbit/s in my testing.
  • Devices: we'll need new gear to use HSDPA, but how much will it cost and and when are they available? When GPRS was rolled out in New Zealand (a world first), it took ages before handsets and data cards appeared.
  • New Vodafone Live! services: apart from the new real-time news service from Prime TV, what else is in store and how much will it cost?
In March this year, when Vodafone started talking about HSDPA, they pointed me to Nokia for a technology backgrounder. From that, it's clear that the present HSDPA isn't the full HSPA that includes the faster HSUPA uplink variety as well. HSUPA won't be ready commercially until 2007.

This makes me wonder if tomorrow's demonstration is just an attempt at keeping interest alive, with perhaps only a select few HSDPA devices and some trial content services coming onstream this year. I'm not convinced that customers will want to upgrade from the current UMTS 3G to HSDPA and then next year to HSPA.

Needless to say though, faster data access is vital to Vodafone's future. Its core revenue stream in this country are the high mobile termination rates and calling charges, both of which are being undermined by fierce competitor Telecom New Zealand that launched a form of converged service earlier this month and promises ADSL2+ with IPTV and music sales on top in 2007. Vodafone wants to provide free local calls for customers within a demarcated distance of customers homes, so that they no longer have to use Telecom's fixed landline for voice and broadband. That stratagem is currently sitting at the regulator's desk for decision, as Telecom is refusing to play along, and insists that it is entitled to charge high mobile rates for calls to and from Vodafone local numbers.

Other related posts:
TDD vs FDD for LTE
Huawei TDD LTE demo aboard the Shanghai MagLev train
Apropos that new Telecom logo

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