Should We Start 3G?

Md. Habibur Rahman


World Mobile market even after full maturity of 2.0G/2.5G technology is still striving to migrate to Third Generation. Second Generation which was supposed to be obsolete by this time, today still acquires 85% of the market share. 3G after 8 years (since 2001) of start acquires only 15% market share. 3GPP before significant deployment of WCDMA based 3G declares the OFDMA based new standard LTE. 3GPP in line technologies UMTS, HSDPA, HSPA, HSPA+ has not bothered for logical gap to offer for deployment. When critics are still asking about the success of 3G, declaration of LTE puts the situation yet complex. This is off course the investment challenge for the mobile operators. Though vendors are very much optimistic about benefit of entering earlier in 3G chains and promising about smooth migration to upward technology by software up gradation only, countries like Bangladesh are to think twice to enter in such non returning vessel. Every vendor has astringent experience about software up gradation of the proprietary system.
It is Mobile WiMAX that compels 3GPP to develop LTE. Vendors deliberately declare LTE roadmap ahead of time to defend against Mobile WiMAX. At this instant LTE is the choice more to the leading CDMA operators in USA to deploy quickly because of the bottleneck of CDMA to higher data rate. WCDMA operators are little pessimistic about quick LTE.
Despite my own attachment with a mobile operator, the insight in the article is from my personal viewpoint.

History of Mobile Generations

Initial mobile

Though first mobile communication was launched in 1946 in USA, the development of mobile technology was stagnant till late 70’s due to technological constraint. The tremendous development of semi conductor technology during this period and subsequent innovation of microprocessors in 1975 helped mobile to breakthrough commercially. Till further development of cellular technology, capacity problem was the key constraint of commercial mobile. In 1978 total number of mobile (only in USA) was no above 10,000. Mobile technology upto this is termed as 0 Generation Mobile.

Cellular Mobile
A quantum leap in mobile communication occurred in 1979 after introduction of cellular mobile & came outside US, first in Japan. This cellular mobile is termed as 1st Generation mobile. The total number of 1G mobile in 1992 reached to 10 million. Though the core network of 1G was digital, the analogue radio network limited the capacity of 1st Generation mobile.
2G Mobile

Digitalization of the radio network was another quantum leap in mobile history & is termed as 2nd Generation Mobile, started in 1992. GSM, the European 2G mobile is the most successful standard which beat the legacy US mobile standard & captured the whole world soon, even in the territory of US. The developed standards for 2G mobile are-

GSM : Europe, Asia, Australia, South , America etc.
DAMPS : America, Australia etc.
PDS : Japan
IS-95 : America, Korea, Japan, China etc

In 2001 the total number of 2G mobile was 660 million where only GSM is 410 million.

Third Generation Mobile 3G

3G vision

Third Generation mobile is the first ITU intervention in mobile technology through a platform named IMT2000. From the past bitter experience of multi standards as well as tremendous success of GSM as a regional standard entrusted the mobile community
toward a common standard for the welfare of the future world. This common standard is termed as 3G. The IMT2000 as the name implies target 3G deployment by 2000 and use frequency of 2000 MHz range.

One objective of 3G mobile is broadband internet access through mobile PC. Internet is the “Global Town Square” where people can meet, chat & blog. The data rate of 3G was aimed up to 2 Mbps. Video phone, mobile commerce, Telemedicine, distant education is the committed service of 3G. Worldwide compatibility & mobility, Home PLMN (HPLMN) service outside geographical border are also the goal of 3G.
With above objectives, 3G technologies under the umbrella of IMT2000 targeted to replace 2G legacy network sooner as possible. As an initial hype of 3G the developed countries started auction 3G spectrum. Initially UK sold 3G spectrum by auction at USD 35.5 billion & Germany at USD 46 billion. Economic down train of Telecom Industry in 2001 stopped 3G auction. Despite this 4 Asian Tiger deployed 3G very shortly. The first 3G mobile standard (FOMA) was launched in 2001 in Japan.

3G Technology Roadmap

The key technology of 3G is CDMA/WCDMA. WCDMA based 3G mobile standard has different version like UMTS, HSDPA, HSPA,HSPA+ and CDMA based 3G standard is CDMA2000 with versions CDMA2000 1X, 1xEV-DO Rel.0 & 1xEV-DO Rev. A. OFDMA based LTE termed as 3G & beyond (also termed as 4G) aims to provide extra high data rate of more than 100 Mbps. LTE is designed with reduced latency (10 milliseconds) to allow VoIP through the data network & consequently deploy all IP network up to the user terminal.

3G market share

Year :: Total Mobile :: Total Growth :: Total 3G :: 3G %
2006 :: 2613 :: 28% :: 166 :: 6%
2007 :: 3250 :: 25% :: 311 :: 9%
2008 :: 3907 :: 20% :: 506 :: 13%
2009 expect :: 4441 :: 11% :: 750 :: 17%
In December 2008, the total number of 2G/2.5G/3G mobile is 3907 million where 3G mobile is 506 million which is 13% only of total mobile. In December 2009 total mobile is expected 4441 where 17% 3G is assumed. This is an indication about dominancy of 2.5G over 3G still after long time of deployment.

3G Challenges

As the interim standard (GPRS/EDGE) could at least cater people’s demand of voice & data and there is little difference between 2g & 3G services, the core marketing concept of product differentiation could not cross threshold margin to succeed 3G over 2/2.5G. Along with these factors the economic downturn in the Telecom industry ultimately slowed down the 3G implementations except in few advanced countries like Japan, Korea, UK, Australia, Austria, Singapore etc. Many operators of the world and especially in the third world countries including Asia Pacific were asleep on the subject of 3G till recent past.

After implementing 3G UMTS in few countries different protocols like HSDPA, HSUPA, HSPA was developed with several megabytes data rates (up to 14.4 Mbps). This development was remarkable in the history of mobile broadband. During initial adoption of 3G, such quick technological up gradation leads the mobile operators ‘Wait & See’ to save CAPEX.

Besides these challenges, WiMAX is another factor that leads 3G to further back footage. IEEE.802.16e standard Mobile WiMAX with a commitment of 75 Mbps data rate (with mobility) create vibrant in 3G roadmap. Intel the leader of computer chip vendor, being the producer of WiMAX chipsets tried to enter Qualcom’s legacy mobile market aggressively.

Japanese has pioneered the mobile commerce ahead of US & Europe by the advent of 3G. If we examine what the Japanese are buying, we will realize that they are not far ahead of the rest of the world. They are buying predominantly Screen server & Ring tones. Small screen & low resolution of mobile is also the challenge of mobile commerce.

Video phone is not as popular as it is expected because of people’s habituation to keep handset on the ear not in front of eye.

3G Jargon