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.

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