Drifting slowly towards 3G

After what seems like an eternity of hype by telecommunications vendors, third generation (3G) wireless would appear to finally be heading to market after the launch of a 3G wireless limited trial by Japan’s NTT DoCoMo in May. According to at least one analyst, however, potential customers should expect at least another four years before 3G wireless services get rolled out in Canada.

According to Jeremy Depow, a senior analyst with The Yankee Group in Canada in Brockville, Ont., the earliest possible year for 3G wireless to rollout in Canada is 2005 or 2006.

“That may be a little over-optimistic, but I think [it will appear] during that period of time,” Depow said.

Depow said 3G wireless is defined on a basic level as the technologies that give a 2Mbps datastream, but to the vendors, 3G is a term that means a variety of different valuable wireless services not available with current technologies.

“I think everyone’s made too big a deal of this 3G technology play, which is an unusual thing for a technology guy to say,” said Brian O’Shaughnessy, vice-president of wireless technology at Bell Mobility in Toronto. “Really what 3G is from our point of view as a technology, is…it being a future enabler to handle even more capacity and capability for the customer. But in terms of the services, it’s a stepped process.”

He added Bell Mobility is expecting to launch some of its early 3G services by the end of this year, but it will not be for about another three to five years before the speeds associated with 3G and 3G’s entire range of services are available. Bell Mobility has not yet made public its plans for rolling out 3G services.

Currently, the industrial world is running on second generation (2G) wireless networks while creeping toward what most refer to as 2.5G networks. According to Depow, 2.5G is the middle ground between 2G and 3G wireless networks and services with transmission speeds of up to 100Kbps. He added 2.5G speeds, while not quite up to par with what is planned for 3G, are a vast improvement over the 9.6Kbps to 12Kbps transmission speeds wireless users are currently getting on their mobile devices.

“That type of infrastructure isn’t really extremely difficult to implement,” Depow said of 2.5G. “They basically just overlay current infrastructures. Going from the 2.5G step to the 3G step is a lot bigger deal – a lot of software to put into their infrastructure, overhauling. It’s a lot bigger to do. Handsets are a lot more complicated.”