Friday, June 17, 2005

Who you gonna call? CDMA!

...450, that is.
According to Sweden's Dagens industri (my ex-whatever you call those you string for), the major mobile operators, who got their 3G licences in beauty contests instead of auctions are backing off from meeting all the requirements (think, Vodafone instead could have spent USD 30 billion/or whatever it was/ and built its own nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to sail the seas selling 3G phones). Companies like Tele2 are asking to be allowed to dodge strict requirements to put up UMTS masts everywhere in the vast country of Sweden where the reindeer roam, that is, on the edge of nowhere, so you can call 118 and ask for instructions on how to get to the middle.
Instead, the operators are politely asking to be allowed to use alternative technologies that sorta do the same. One approach is to have EDGE declared to be 3G. Well, that's sort of like having the fastest World War II propeller-driven plane (the P-50, wasn't it?) declared a jet. EDGE could then be added to existing GSM services on networks offering both UMTS and GSM to kind of keep up the speed when the reindeer herder leaves town. *
The other alternative is cdma 450, with its far lower base station density. Triatel in Latvia has been doing this all along (all along being since last year). The fact that a cdma 450 operator (Nordisk Mobiltelefon) may get licenced in the halfmotherland of all mobile technologies (thanks to Ericsson, the other half mother is Nokia) is music to the Latvian operator's ears. It means that its technology, which even yours truly described as "non-standard" in a certain newspaper when it showed up, is starting to go mainstream.
And why not? What we have here with Triatel, assuming -as one never should - that all works, a plug and play (from the customer's viewpoint) total wireless communications and services provider. In less than a day, by unpacking the Triatel "box" (there is none, there are probably several boxes) you can get 3G mobile phones, data cards for the laptops, desk phones (with a softswitch PBX and SMS to deskphone) and DSL-like high speed internet. The best speed for EV-DO (?) on cdma-450 is more than 2.4 Mbps, but Triatel will probably package it in 128, 256 and 512 kbps (well, maybe a meg) low cost, home, business and premium business packages.
Interestingly, this sort of matches Lattelekom's wireline internet offering. One area where Triatel will seek customers is "out in the green grazing fields" where developers are selling lots but there is no infrastructure. Unless Lattelekom or electric utility Latvenergo (with its possibility to run fiber down the same cable channel as electricity) beats Triatel to the punch, it is an excellent idea for getting new homeowners. Just open the box and start surfing even before the roof on your new house is finished.
Latvenergo can't provide its service without wires, but Lattelekom, rather than running optics for kilometers across glen and glade, could opt for WiMax (once someone finds where to buy it)
Both wireline and wireless operators also have to get the jump on the companies hawking satellite parabola packages for LVL 1 to get customers for television services(just sign up to subscribe for more moons than your grandmother has seen, but that's another story). Using the 3G handset as a digital TV decoder is not a crazed future vision. In fact, why not recharge the gadget by plugging it into the TV and feed IPTV broadcasts to the 40 inch plasma screen?
A challenge for Triatel--can wireless triple play be done on cdma450?

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