3G : New mobile data standard on the way

A new wireless data specification is expected to join an already crowded field next year.

The IEEE this week created the 802.20 Mobile Broadband Wireless Access (MBWA) working group. The group is focused on developing a standard for mobile users that would support high-speed wireless data transmissions in the 3-GHz spectrum band with a high degree of reliability.

“The goal is to have a ubiquitous data wireless network that can support real-time traffic with . . . extremely low latency at 20 milliseconds or less,” says Mark Klerer, chairman of the group and executive director of standards at Flarion Technologies Inc., a wireless infrastructure vendor.

The standard also is expected to support high-bandwidth data transmissions up to 1M bit/sec for mobile users traveling at up to 150 miles per hour. This will provide users on a high-speed train to use time-sensitive applications, such as videoconferencing, Klerer says.

Exactly how the standard will operate is still open to debate. Flarion plans to submit a plan to support 802.20 MBWA using Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM). This is an inverse multiplexing technology that divides a single high-speed channel into multiple parallel low-speed channels that do not overlap. It is similar to dense wavelength division multiplexing, says Craig Mathias, principal at consulting firm Farpoint Group.

In theory, OFDM can offer excellent throughput and reliability, he says. But it’s likely other vendors will submit other technical options to support 802.20.

The 802.20 specification will apply to the same band of licensed spectrum that current mobile wireless networks such as AT&T Wireless and Sprint PCS operate in. But Klerer says the 802.20 specification will complement rather than compete with 3G standards.

“3G is highly optimized for voice and is now trying to incorporate data,” Klerer says. The IEEE group is developing a more efficient standard that will switch IP packets in their native form, he says.

“We are committed to establishing a relationship with 3G [standards groups] to have future interfaces that ensure interoperability and at some point address roaming across 3G just as a GSM user roams on a [Wideband Code Division Multiple Access] 2000 network today,” Klerer says.