RealTime IT News

The 3G Triumvirate

Lucent Technologies officials announced Wednesday the launch of two 3G systems that capitalize on wireless phone carriers in the process of migrating existing 2G and 2.5G networks.

Verizon Communications , the largest wireless phone company in the U.S. with more than 29.4 million customers, has been conducting field tests with the new systems in Dallas and Boston for a couple months. Verizon Wireless has been offering what they call 3G phone service to select markets in the U.S. since January.

The two Lucent products, called Flexent CDMA Modular Cell 3.0 and Flexent CDMA High-Density 3.0, are base station systems that improve on existing technology to deliver better results using less floor space.

The two systems work on both the existing CDMA2000 1xRTT standard used by Verizon today and the carrier's forthcoming 1xEV-DO standard, which is the evolution of 1xRTT. They have also been developed to incorporate future Lucent products like the "intelligent" antenna, which boosts network capacity by managing wireless bandwidth.

Lucent has supplied the wireless phone company with equipment since mid-2000, when Verizon Wireless named Lucent its primary wireless network infrastructure vendor.

3G technology is the next generation in digital wireless phone service (2G), giving customers full Web surfing capability, as well as the ability to view streaming media and read e-mails. 2.5G is considered a tweener technology, with its ability to deliver specially-formatted Web pages, limited email access and basic chat capabilities.

The announcement points to a growing consolidation of effort between Lucent, Verizon and QUALCOMM to develop and deploy the most comprehensive 3G package seen in the U.S. to date.

Verizon Wireless and QUALCOMM are already working hand-in-hand to develop applications for 2G wireless handsets (using 2G CDMA technology) and are likely working together on a 3G CDMA 2000 enhancement.

Lucent and QUALCOMM have a long-standing relationship dating back to 2000, working together to perform its first live 3G phone calls using CDMA2000-1x technology.

Verizon took a lot of flak from industry analysts and the press in recent months for its 3G services, which is in all actuality closer to what's referred to as 2.5G service with its 40 to 60 Kbps Internet speeds (3G speeds are considered any phone handling 144 Kbps).

Since then, the carrier has gone to great lengths to beef up its infrastructure, testing systems built by Lucent in select markets before deploying nationwide.

The relationship between the three has already begun to pay dividends: Verizon Wireless, though not the first 2G wireless phone carrier in the U.S. (Sprint holds that distinction), is one of the furthest along in next-generation wireless phone deployment. AT&T Wireless launched its 2.5G service last July in Seattle.

AT&T Wireless, however, is rolling out its next-generation wireless phone network via general packet radio service (GPRS), a technology seen by many as too expensive to roll out. GPRS is a substandard of the 3G standard called global system for mobile communications (GSM) and will cost a substantial amount to upgrade to true 3G.

Ma Bell expects the entire 2.5G rollout to cost in the neighborhood of $2.5 billion. No plans are underway for a 3G deployment.