Sprint Completes Nationwide Upgrade to 3G 1X

With the race to provide broader wireless services continuing to heat up,
Sprint Thursday took a major charge, becoming the first U.S.
carrier to complete a nationwide 3G 1X network upgrade.


3G , a shortened acronym for third-generation wireless networks, has long
been touted as the technological link to bring true data capabilities to the
mobile arena.


Although Sprint’s new network will be far slower than the 2 Mbps speeds that
the industry had touted since the concept of 3G was first conceived in the
early ’90s, the upgraded network will provide improved speed, peaking at 144
kbps, with average user speeds of 50 to 70 kbps.


Keith Waryaf, research manager for IDC notes that while these speeds may
often get compared with dial-up, the user experience will be more similar to
a higher-bandwidth connection. Because of the thin nature of mobile-Web
optimized files, and the actual speeds of the new network generally being
higher than the actual speeds of a 56k modem, which is very rarely 56 kbps,
the user will be able to load pages very quickly.


Verizon Wireless, who launched the first U.S. commercial 3G network, known
as Express Network, to limited areas in January, advertises transmission
speeds between 40 and 60 kilobits per second with bursts up to 144 kbps.
Express Network, which has now spread to approximately 300 cities, is
currently aimed only at the data market, utilizing data-only devices.


“Sprint has an immediate short-term advantage on a spec-sheet basis because
it rolled out nationally rather than doing it in a somewhat segmented
fashion the way that Verizon has,” said Waryaf. “While Verizon has a bit of
an advantage because it got to the market first and has a larger customer
base, whether or not that plays out in the long-run is going to be a wait
and see proposition.”


Sprint’s new 3G 1X network, based on CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access)
technology enables the company to achieve up to double its network capacity
as PCS Vision-enabled handsets are deployed throughout the network. CDMA
works using “spread spectrum” technology, where every channel uses the full
available spectrum, rather than assigning a specific frequency to each user.


When implemented, CDMA technology has many potential benefits, including
improved call quality, enhanced privacy, improved coverage characteristics,
and increased talk time.


“Sprint’s selection of CDMA2000 allowed us to leverage the natural evolution
of our network, providing Sprint with voice capacity improvements that alone
were worth the investment to enhance our network. And with the support of
our vendors,” said Oliver Valente, chief technology officer, PCS division,
Sprint.


CommWorks, HP, Lucent Technologies, Motorola, Nortel Networks, Openwave
Systems, QUALCOMM and Samsung contributed to the network upgrade, which
consisted of changing out channel cards at base stations and upgrading
channel elements and software, as well as adding data components to network
infrastructure.


In addition to the network upgrade, Sprint has worked with Bytemobile to
incorporate dynamic bandwidth optimization technology from its Macara
platform on the enhanced network. The company claims that by using certain
PCS Vision enabled devices, one will experience average data speeds two to
five times faster than average user speeds on the enhanced Nationwide PCS
Network, depending on the specific application.


Along with Sprint’s upgrade, the company has introduced its new PCS Vision
service, which provides devices and services aimed at taking advantage of
the upgraded network. PCS Vision will include services that allow consumer
to use their Vision-enabled PCS Devices to take and receive pictures, check
personal and corporate e-mail, play games with full-color graphics and
polyphonic sounds and browse the Internet wirelessly.


“(Sprint) has a whole slew of devices out there that are very compelling,”
says Waryaf. “They will be pushing those things into the consumer market and
even if (a consumer) doesn’t opt for that vision/data functionality, the
CDMA platform provides a fairly easy migration to up that customer to just
higher speed data.”


While Sprint is the first to upgrade its entire network in the U.S., other
parts of the world already have pushed forward with mobile initiatives based
on 3G.


In October of last year, Japan’s NTT DoCoMo rolled out FOMA, the world’s
first commercial 3G network, boasting packet-based receiving speeds reaching
385 Kbps.


Sprint’s current 2G services will continue to work as they did before the
introduction of PCS Vision. Customers will not need to purchase new handsets
in order to continue Sprint wireless services, unless they would like to
take advantage of the new PCS Vision products and services.

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