Bell Canada has unveiled what it calls the “fastest mobile data network ever commercialized.”
Dubbed EV-DO (Evolution Data Optimized), this Bell Mobility third generation (3G) wireless network delivers data download speeds of up to 2.4 Mbps, which Bell says is five to seven times faster than anything else currently available in Canada. (Bell’s own 1x network has a maximum throughput of 163Kbps for wireless data downloads).
Subsequent versions, the company says, will surpass that speed – going up to 3.1Mbps. The operating average of EV-DO will be 400 to 700Kbps. Bell says the new network will support the growing trend towards convergence of voice and data streams.
“Our customers expect more from a wireless network than just voice,” said Adel Bazerghi, vice-president of wireless technology at Bell. “We are seeing wireless data starting to pick-up in marketplace.”
Bell is investing $100 million, spread over the next few years, to bring EV-DO to Canadians, according to Jim Jaques, senior vice-president of business marketing and sales at Bell Mobility, “This is the future of wireless. That is why Bell is making this investment.” Jaques said EV-DO gives Bell a decisive advantage over GSM players.
At least one Canadian analyst believes this is a significant investment for Bell.
The move from an EDGE network to EV-DO is a big leap, according to Eddie Chan, research analyst, mobile, personal computing and technology at IDC Canada in Toronto. “Look at mobility and what is going on with the Wi-Fi, WLAN and WAN space. It is finally becoming more of a broadband transport [channel].”
He said data intensive devices – such as notebooks – when connected to the network require considerable bandwidth for Web surfing, and the fatter the pipe, the [richer] the experience.
Chan’s says EV-DO looks like a solid solution. “If you are on the road looking for connectivity it is impressive and next to Wi-Fi, it is pretty good.”
Bell’s EV-DO announcement follows news that Ericsson Canada Inc. and Rogers Communications Inc. have teamed to run trials of their own 3G high-speed downlink packet access (HSDPA) network. The peak download for HSDPA is said to be up to 14 Mbps. However, Chan said users would probably not get those types of speeds with HSDPA when it launches in 2006.
Bell also announced a series of devices to support its new EV-DO wireless network.
These include a Kycoera Passport – an EV-DO wireless card that gives users broadband access to corporate applications, e-mail, VPNs and browsers. The cost of the card is $99 with a 36-month contract with Bell Canada. Jaques said the cost of the Kyocera card is actually cheaper than the wireless cards for the 1x network.
Also introduced is the new BlackBerry 7130e, an EV-DO enabled device for both data and voice that will be available by the end of this year. As well, Bell has partnered with Samsung Electronics Canada to bring the Samsung a920, the first mobile phone to have EV-DO. It will also have streaming video capability and a built-in MP3 player.
The new Bell EV-DO network already has its first customer. Jaques said the Peel Regional Police would be using the network in 300 of its cruisers. Potential early adopters, he said, would include companies with mobile workers.
The EV-DO network is available now in the Greater Toronto Area and Montreal. Jaques expects ubiquitous EV-DO coverage for the rest of Canada to be a reality by the end of 2007.