RealTime IT News

Verizon Wireless Gets Ready For 3G

Verizon Wireless is getting ready for their big 3G push, signing "softswitch" maker CommWorks Wednesday to a multi-year deal to upgrade their 2G wireless network to the next generation of wireless phone technology.

Though details were sketchy on the contract, Verizon Wireless had not returned phone calls by press time, the company's decision to ramp up to 3G is big news to CommWorks and potentially even bigger news to consumers using the popular wireless phone company for their service.

Servers have already been shipped, and CommWorks officials say more will deploy as Verizon Wireless expands its 3G service nationwide using the code division multiple access (CDMA) 2000 1xRTT standard. Successful field tests were conducted last year in Philadelphia before the contract was signed.

John Bartucci, CommWorks director of wireless product management, said adding their solution to the Verizon Wireless network opens up a new world of uses for consumers.

"Now we can expect these new devices to be able to different kinds of applications," he said. "It evolved from broadcast and messaging sorts of things to multimedia types of capabilities. The common person today should expect, as soon as their particular service provider rolls out 3G in the next several months, the ability to buy a 3G phone that will enable them to access the Internet."

3G, or third-generation wireless (analog cellular phones are 1G, digital phones 2G and data-enabled digital phones are given the 2.5G moniker), has been met with a lot of hype but not a lot of substance in the U.S. the past couple years.

Deployments in the U.S. have stalled because a raft of conflicting standards hampered carrier development in past years. Still using 2.5G technology (which delivers data over the telephone company's circuit switches), they've been slow to adopt the new read, expensive to initiate technology.

Most wireless carriers, notably Verizon Wireless, use (CDMA) as the wireless standard of choice for their networks. One of the most advanced platforms of the 2G standard, it allows wireless phone users to send instant messages and read special-formatted Web pages (text-only and difficult to navigate using current wireless phones) and can be upgraded to 3G.

Overseas, the situation is similar. Heavily investing in 2.5G technology, telephone companies like SK Telecom (South Korea) and NTT DoCoMo Inc. (Japan) have pushed back initial roll out dates of this year for almost another year. Many want to see how 2.5G services are received by the masses before jumping into 3G.

Verizon Wireless will likely start out slow with its 3G deployment throughout the U.S. They have a double whammy to think of not only do executive need to worry about slow acceptance rate, they need to take into consideration the reaction of potential shareholders if and when they ever decide to hold an initial public offering. 3G failure this year could set back their IPO even further -- a process that started in August 2000, was put on hold, revived again earlier this year, then put on hold again indefinitely.

CommWorks builds a "softswitch" server, a piece of hardware located at the central office (CO) that acts as a gateway between radio access nodes and the telephone company's land-based network that easily bridges the gap between 2G and 3G. Using a blade architecture mounted onto a chassis, it resides next to the CO's network equipment.

Irfan Ali, CommWorks president, said the new technology gives Verizon Wirless the ability to present the Internet, not just the awkward form 2.5G presents, to the mobile wireless world.

"The true promise of high-speed wireless networks lies not simply in the technology, but in the new services and applications that the technology will enable," he said. "These networks will make wireless data both useful and usable. Consumers will benefit from increased productivity and efficiencies made possible by high-speed wireless connectivity."

In addition to Verizon Wireless, CommWorks has its servers residing at the CO's of telephone companies like SK Telekom, KDDI and Telus Mobility. Sprint PCS is currently testing CommWorks servers on their network.

CommWorks is a subsidiary of manufacturing giant 3Com Corp.