Today's wireless carriers are confronted with a multitude of technologies and emerging standards that represent an alphabet soup of options for offering data capabilities over a cellular backbone. A list of some terms to consider, with a brief description of each, appears below:
- Global System Mobile Communications): International standard for cellular phone service
- 3G (Third-Generation Wireless): Upgrades to GSM
- 4G (Fourth-Generation Wireless): Successor to 3G
- CDMA (Code-Division Multiple Access): Packet-based wireless access technology
- W-CDMA (Wideband Code-Division Multiple Access) and UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunication Systems): A European standard designed to support data transmission rates of 144 kbps for use in vehicles, 384 kbps for pedestrian use, and up to 2 mbps for use indoors
- GPRS (General Packet Radio Service): Data services over GSM network, often referred to as 2.5G
- HSDPA (High-Speed Data Packet Access): Data services over GSM network, often referred to as 3.5G or 4G (higher speeds than GPRS)
- EDGE (Enhanced Data for GSM Environment): Digital mobile phone technology that enhances 2G and 2.5G (GPRS)
- EV-DO or 1xEV-DO (Evolution Data Optimized): Packet services for CDMA networks
- 1xRTT (Single Carrier (1X) Radio Transmission Technology): 3G technology using CDMA
- CDMA: Verizon and Sprint
- 1xRTT: 50-70 kbps
- EV-DO: 300-500 kbps
- GSM: (Cingular/AT&T)M
- GPRS: 50 kbps
- EDGE: 70-130 kbps
- UMTS: 200-320 kbps
- HSDPA: 400-700 kbps (coming 2007)
In the United States, the major carriers have adopted either CDMA (Verizon and Sprint) or GSM (Cingular/AT&T) as the technology of choice for mobile data communications. The carriers are all looking to enhance their offerings to support high-speed data capabilities.
The offerings from each are as follows:
As you can see, there is a tremendous amount of change within the carriers as the technologies themselves become standardized. The key is speed and reach. Verizon and Sprint hold the edge on Cingular domestically because Cingular has not fully deployed its 4G offering (HSDPA). Sprint and Verizon phones will not work internationally, however.
Either way, the technology is now becoming capable of supporting business applications, and once the carriers can reach that market, the services will only continue to expand. The key is to evaluate the phones (and the service) that you are looking to purchase and to find the one that supports your specific business and personal needs.
About the author:
Robbie Harrell (CCIE#3873) is the National Practice Lead for Advanced Infrastructure Solutions for SBC Communications. He has more than 10 years of experience providing strategic, business and technical consulting services. Robbie lives in Atlanta and is a graduate of Clemson University. His background includes positions as a principal architect at International Network Services, Lucent, Frontway and Callisma.
This was first published in August 2006