HSDPA – UK Gets a Little Closer

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High-speed data links came a step closer for the UK last month, with two networks nearing the end of service development…

3 says it has successfully trialled HSDPA on its 3G network in the UK. It has already delivered speeds of up to 1.4m bits per second; 3 will implement HSDPA in its commercial network in the second half of 2006.

And Vodafone UK starts live customer trials on its HSDPA network this month. A hundred business users will be testing Vodafone UK’s HSDPA-enabled Mobile Connect Cards in the London area. Tim Miles, Vodafone UK CEO, said “We have seen high demand for 3G since its launch two years ago and our customers are hungry for the improvements that HSDPA will deliver”.

HSDPA significantly improves the data speeds that can be delivered over a mobile data network.HSDPA can work at least twice as fast as 3G,and up to four times the speed depending on the implementation. It also has three times the capacity of 3G, allowing more users to share the same transmission cell.

A recent survey by the Global Mobile Suppliers Association identified 70 network operators who have confirmed interest in deploying HSDPA systems, reflecting an increase of 40% in the past four months.The Association also counts more than two dozen HSDPA-capable user devices on the market – PC datacards, phones, and embedded laptop modules.That figure has doubled in six months.

If there’s any problem on the HSDPA horizon, it might be the pricing model. Mobile operators should consider offering single-fee,unlimited data access plans if they want to see HSDPA services take off in the same way as broadband did.

That’s the view of Devine Kofiloto, principal analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media. He’s concerned that operators are used to enforcing premium prices for premium performance. “In the voice world, the so-called ‘mobile premium’ has for years allowed mobile operators to get away with vastly higher tariffs than those charged by their fixed-line counterparts.”

But he doesn’t think that will promote the levels of traffic that HSDPA investment needs. “Looking at the fixed [data services] world,broadband uptake only truly took off after the introduction of flat-rate tariffs and the settling of average monthly fees at around €25,” he noted.