Who will be first with HSDPA in the UK?
As you may or many not know HSDPA (High Speed Downlink Data Packet Access) is the exciting new technology which will enable mobile phone networks to ramp up data speeds to levels well beyond what we currently have with 3G. Quite who is going to be first to deliver HSDPA remains to be seen though. O2 has been making a big noise about the technology and has been trialling it on the Isle of Man. Its HSDPA system has just gone live there offering users speeds of 1.4Mbps. It also hopes to have HSDPA available across the UK by the end of next summer.
Orange is also keen on HSDPA and stressed how important it is at the 3GSM show in Cannes earlier in the year. The dark horses though could be T-Mobile which cunningly committed to its HSDPA roll out in a press release about its Web’n Walk tariff last month. It is promising to deliver a service in 2006 which will offer data speeds of 1.8Mbps – over four times faster than its existing 3G network. Today T-Mobile confirmed that, in collaboration with its partner Nokia it had completed HSDPA calls in the UK, the Netherlands and Germany.
"The HSDPA calls demonstrate T-Mobile's commitment to raising the bar for the quality of broadband mobile data services," says Hamid Akhavan, Chief Technology Officer, T-Mobile. "The calls are a good example of the successful cooperation that is taking place between T-Mobile and Nokia in the field of high speed mobile access and broadband applications."
Quite what the networks, and indeed us consumers will do with all that extra bandwidth remains to be seen. HSDPA PCMCIA cards for laptops are a cert though and maybe for the first time, we’ll have really smooth video streaming. Don’t expect HSDPA speeds to stop at around 4Mbps either. According to O2 download speed is set to rise to 7.3Mbps in 2008 before hitting 10.2Mbps in late 2009.
Vodafone's 3G PC card on sale in Europe
It could be just what your laptop has been waiting for. Vodafone has today launched the Mobile Connect 3G/GPRS data card for laptops.
So in theory, laptop-owning Britons can access the web on the go at speeds of up to 384kbps.
Vodafone hopes the card will help claw back some of the £13 billion pounds it has invested in 3G networks across Europe.
The demonstration the company gave at today’s press conference certainly looked impressive with good quality video streamed on the PC via 3G at around 300kbps. Vodafone also claims that a file as large as 10MB could be transferred to a PC in less than ten minutes.
The tariffs aren’t bad too. The card costs between £50-80 depending on which payment option the user chooses, while monthly fees range from £20 a month (for downloading up to 50MB) to £85 per month, which gets you a whole Gigabyte.
3G card owners will also be able to roam with their laptops in eight European countries still downloading data at 3G speeds.
But inevitably there are limitations to its performance
1 Vodafone's 3G coverage is just 30% of the UK population - This includes major cities like London, Manchester Cardiff and Birmingham. It promises that around 60% of the UK population would have access to its 3G services by the Autumn.
2 Changeover between 3G and GPRS - Apparently the card automatically diverts to GPRS, yet maintains the connection which is essential if the user is in the midst of a download. However, given the difficulties Three has had with its GPRS to 3G handshake we will wait to be convinced if this works in practice.
3 Speed - At the demo in the Savoy Hotel in London, it was easy to display streaming at speeds of 384kbps, because no one else was using the 3G network. When that bandwidth starts to be shared among many users speeds could slow significantly. Voda does however promise it won’t dip below 200kbps.
4 Upload speed – Just 64kbps – about half the speed of broadband.
5 Battery life – Just like Wi-Fi the 3G card seriously saps your battery.
Still it works as billed the Vodafone 3G Mobile Connect card should be a no-brainer for anyone with a laptop who spends more than a couple of days a month out of the office.
Voda's 3G PC card is here
It seemed like only yesterday that Vodafone announced it was trialling its 3G Mobile Connect card for laptops. Well it has now made good on its promise and confirmed a full roll out ofn the card in the next week or so.
Initially the card, which Voda promises will enable users to access the Internet at speeds of up to 384kbps, will only be available to larger business. However smaller companies and consumers should be able to snap one up by the beginning of summer. We hear that Orange has a similar card which it will launch around the same time.
The Voda card’s only real drawback is its coverage area. It is limited to areas where the Vodafone 3G network is available (essentially cities like London and Manchester and along the M4). When the card leaves a 3G area it apparently shifts seamlessly to a GPRS network.
There’s no news yet on price, but we don’t think it will be cheap.
Sony Ericsson has GPRS and Wi-Fi
We mentioned a while ago that Motorola was lining up a 'broadband to go' 3G/Wi-Fi network card for PCs. If you can’t wait until then Sony Ericsson has one that features both Wi-Fi (802.11b) and GPRS (general packet radio service). The £250 triple band GC79 card can access the Internet at speeds of up to 11Mbps at Wi-Fi hot spots and at up to 53.6Kbps using GPRS networks.
More from the card’s dedicated site