RealTime IT News

(CDMA-Flavored) 3G's Chance to Shine

Europe had its 3GSM World Congress in February to showcase cutting edge wireless networking advances with its dominant TDMA standard.

Now, it's CTIA Wireless 2004 conference's turn in Atlanta to showcase how the United States and other global players are pushing 3G networking with the competing CDMA standard -- and tackling the interoperability with different wireless standards.

Although mobile entertainment device advances are expected to steal much of the spotlight during the event that runs Monday through Wednesday, developers will be in the limelight too. Look for CDMA technology, including the CDMA 1xEV-DO data networking protocol, to be a primary focus of many announcements at the show, participants said.

Verizon Wireless , currently the largest wireless carrier in the U.S., is kicking off the news flow with an expansion announcement regarding its 3G data service called BroadbandAccess, which is built on CDMA 1xEVDO technology.

The service, which went national in its rollout in January after a launch in Washington, D.C. and San Diego, already boasts data transmission speeds of between 300 to 500 kilobits per second, with bursts of up to 2 megabits per second.

In addition to speed, the company said the service is ideal for downloading complex files, with the ability to download a 1MB email attachment in less than 20 seconds.

Verizon claims GPRS (which is the standard used by T-Mobile) would take nearly seven minutes to download the same file, and that the EDGE standard, which is built on the competing GSM standard, would take about a minute and a half for the same 1MB file download. However, in some deployments, the faster version of the GSM standard has been hitting up to 384 kilobits per second.

But Cingular Wireless, which won the bidding to acquire AT&T Wireless (and deploys the EDGE standard in its wireless data network), is expected to ramp up its 3G network speed. Indeed, it has no choice. AT&T Wireless is committed to rolling out 3G in four U.S. markets by year-end and faces a $6 billion contractual penalty from its investor NTT DoCoMo if it does not.

Developers Take Center Stage

Steve Largent, CEO and president of CTIA, said education and development are always focal points of the show.

Rob Mesirow, vice president of conventions at CTIA, said because the wireless market is so large and diverse, keeping one step ahead can be a challenge. With that in mind, he said, the developer forums are designed to inform, challenge, to break new ground.

For example, Qualcomm is offering 3G technical training sessions for engineers and IT professionals and will cover CDMAU2000 1xEVDO key concepts, as well as background on high speed, in-building repeaters, network planning and UMTS/WCDMA network optimization. Developers will also offer insights about how 3G UMTS networks are helping to advance CDMA.

Sun Microsystems is planning to address new approaches to providing wireless payment technologies for carriers and third-party content vendors, which has seen slow up-take in the North American markets. Sun is working with wireless platform company Kabira on a platform that helps wireless providers earn substantial return on investment on micro-payments. The companies plan to announce new features for the Kabira High-Volume Transaction Adapter (HVTA) for the Sun Java Enterprise System (JavaES).

Cisco is planning to discuss how the company is building new 3G networking features like one that combines Lucent's Softswitch with Cisco's MGX 8000 Series Media Gateways, which are designed to deliver high-speed data, multimedia and VoIP services.

Industry experts and analysts expect the news announcements from the show to show positive momentum for 3G overall. However, SG Cowen, in a note to investors, said while "indicators for mobile handset and mobile infrastructure markets [have] looked positive lately, on the 3G front, datapoints are mixed and we remain cautious that mass market adoption will be later than general expectations."

Scott McNealy, Chairman and CEO of Sun Microsystems, is to join Cisco's President and CEO, John Chambers, for the first keynote address Monday.

Michael Powell, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, is also delivering a keynote address.

Tuesday's keynote theme is built for the consumer and mobile entertainment crowd, with Russell Simmons, a co-founder and chairman of Def Jam Records, as well as chairman of Rush Communications, joining Juno Cho, president of InfoComm for keynote addresses and demonstrations. Also slated is Edward Zander, the former Sun president who recently took the helm of Motorola as its chairman and CEO.

CTIA Wireless 2004 arrives amid consolidation among wireless carriers in the U.S. with Cingular Wireless's successful bid to purchase AT&T Wireless. Expect the state of the industry to come up on Wednesday as senior management of all the major carriers take the stage for keynotes. They include Timothy Donahue, president and CEO of Nextel Communications, whose push-to-talk feature has become a new battle among other carriers looking to provide similar services.

The Wednesday keynote will also feature Scott Ford, President & CEO of ALLTEL; Len Lauer, President and COO Sprint Corporation; Stan Sigman, President & CEO of Cingular Wireless; John Stanton Chairman T-Mobile USA and Denny Strigl, President and CEO Verizon Wireless.

Expect lots of camera phones looking for snapshot moments, too. Mobloggers (mobile bloggers) will be out in force at the show. Organizers said attendees with camera-equipped mobile devices can record photographs and video highlights of the show's people, products, keynotes, parties and extracurricular activities. Participants can post submissions wirelessly to an open mobile blogging site. The entries will be on display here.

Wireless will hit the runways as a fashion statement as well with the Fashion in Motion event showcasing wearable wireless and Internet technology. Students from the Topological Media Lab at Georgia Tech will display garments whose textures of sound and light dance to the wearer's movement and gesture with the use of body-imaging and sensing technologies. Another wearable gadget, Nokia's Alter Ego device, lets users snap a picture and hang it around their necks with a wearable display that allows the user to upload a color image. Motorola will be showcasing a Bluetooth enabled helmet that takes always-on connections to new heights.