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Last Updated: Friday, 25 November 2005, 16:53 GMT
3G industry optimistic for 2006
At the largest annual mobile wireless exhibition in Asia, in Hong Kong, Stephen Cole assesses the mobile phones vying for our attention in 2006, and finds that many see a turning point on the horizon.


3G mobile
2006 could be a turning point for the take-up of 3G, some believe
3G stands for third generation, which, put simply, is broadband for your mobile.

However, much of the hype around the services it offers - including video, picture messaging, and accessing the internet - has not been realised in past years.

Despite all the fancy offerings, it turns out that most people use their phones to make telephone calls and send the occasional text.

In Europe voice is the clear revenue winner, closely followed by text. But we only spend an average of 1 euro a month on all the other services put together.

Operators are looking at a similar situation in the US, although in Japan and South Korea, where 3G were first introduced, the field is more bunched up.

Part of the problem may be data speeds. 3G typically offers us download rates of 100 to 300 kilobits per second - this is much slower than most broadband connections in the home which typically pass data round at megabit speeds.

But new upgrades to networks such as HSDPA (High Speed Downlink Packet Access) and EV-DO (Evolution, Data Optimised) could spark a change in 2006.

We will not know it is happening, but these upgrades will mean we can download data from one place to another at between two and three times the speed.

This makes large files like music or video a far more attractive proposition.

Makeover

Last month, the Isle of Man was the first place in Europe to get a commercial roll out of the new HSDPA technology, allowing faster broadband access over the whole island.

Although this is only available through a PC card at the moment, it is already leading to a turf war between wi-fi hotspots and cellular networks.

Mobile phone user
The industry wants us to use our phones for more than just calls
Internet browsing on mobiles is in for a makeover as well. Some big industry names are behind a new browser called the S60, which was recently shown off in Hong Kong.

Launching early next year, it allows quick zoom in, a page overview, and an Apple-like scroll-through page history.

Broadband has already fuelled an explosion in online multi-player gaming in the home, and now many see that transferring to mobiles.

However, because of the time it takes to play many games, much will depend on how much operators charge these young players.

Higher data speeds while on the go makes mobile TV more attractive, too, and many in the industry believe it is the development to watch in 2006.

But some already see a tussle between the operators and content providers, as Mark Newman, an industry analyst from Informa, explained.

"If we imagine in any particular country there may be four or five mobile operators, and each one wants to have something exclusive that they can offer to their customers.

"On the other hand if you're a TV company, you want to broadcast your services to as many people as possible. Immediately you have friction between the two sides."

Driving factors

It is not just about the technology. Next year's Football World Cup is expected to be a significant turning point.

We have really good chances that the soccer championship next year will be the boom for this technology
Christophe Caselitz, Siemens
Christophe Caselitz, the president of Global Mobile Networks for Siemens, said: "The soccer event is going to be one of the driving factors next year.

"I would doubt that somebody is going to watch 120 minutes over the cell phone, but you can condense that, you can look to the most important goals, or to the most important scenes.

"Then we have really good chances that the soccer championship next year will be the boom for this technology."

Siemens was showing off its version of a new mobile TV broadcast system, called DVBH, at the show.

We will need new handsets to receive the signals, so while trials began this year, the rollout could perhaps be more likely to coincide with the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Internet telephony, or IP calling, promises to help bring down the cost of calling next year, with wi-fi in the home and office likely to lead to landline rates on our mobiles while inside these hotspots.

Marc Rouanne, the chief operating officer at Alcatel, said the first thing that will start is combined GSM and wi-fi.

"With the handset you have, you will arrive in your home and you will move to wi-fi and DSL. You won't notice.

"That's simplicity. This is coming for Christmas in seven markets."

As for Wimax - wi-fi's cousin that covers a much larger area - it could still be a way off for mobiles. For one thing, they need to get a large transmitter/receiver inside the handsets.

As for 3G itself, many see 2006 as a turning point for the fortunes of new services.

The industry is waiting for us all to do more than just talk.


Click Online is broadcast on BBC News 24: Saturday at 2030, Sunday at 0430 and 1630, and on Monday at 0030. It can be watched on the website from late Friday afternoon. A short version is also shown on BBC Two and BBC News 24 as part of BBC Breakfast: Saturday at 0645. Also BBC World.



SEE ALSO:
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Mobile networks seek turbo boost
25 Feb 05 |  Technology
Vodafone and Universal in 3G deal
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