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Telstra chooses HSDPA over WiMax

On its face, the direction is clear: A mobile version of WiMax has been launched in South Korea; Motorola is targeting the Asia/Pacific as its main focus for aggressive promotion of 802.16e; and WiMax certification has began. Then comes a reminder that things are a bit more complicated. In evidence: Australia's Telstra is not jumping on the WiMax bandwagon. The company's CEO, Sol Trujillo, has just announced that the operator will spend more than $1 billion on a turbo-charged 3G GSM mobile phone service, which will replace its CDMA operation. Telstra's decision will put it in direct competition with Intel-supported Unwired (Intel invested about $37 million in the Australian operator, which uses Navini technology). Unwired has already began to offer wireless broadband connections in Sydney using a proprietary technology. Unwired plans to convert to WiMax and roll out services across Australia from next year.

Telstra will use High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) to deliver broadband Internet access to mobile phones. Laptops should also be able to connect using a PC card. HSDPA offers download speeds of 2 Mbps to 3 Mbps--better than the 40 Kbps offered on mobiles with GPRS and better than the DSL Telstra itself offers, but not in the same league as WiMax's 50 Mbps to 100 Mbps downloads. Telstra's 3G GSM HSDPA service is due to begin operation late next year.

The coming battle in Australia between WiMax and 3G GSM HSDPA only foreshadows similar battles elsewhere. Trujillo (he is really a Texan, although he runs the Australian operator) is unapologetic: "How many of us in the industry have been talking about WiMax for how long and how many users are really using WiFi or WiMax today? The answer is not a lot. WiMax is not easy to use, requires lots of interconnection agreements, all kinds of complexities that are associated with making it work for what I would call the masses."

For more on Telstra's decision:
- see David Frith's AustralianIT report
- and Renai LeMay's CNET Australia article

ALSO: Trujillo may want to consult Tom Quirke, director of marketing radio access networks at Motorola. He says that using HSDPA indoors will present problems for 3G mobile extension technology getting the signal inside a building to users. "To get this high speed you need a fairly clean radio signal, and you're operating at quite a high frequency, which means it doesn't travel as far as GSM signals," Quirke says. "There are issues about trying to get that signal inside buildings and that itself can create a problem." Motorola recently conducted trials of HSDPA in an outdoors environment which will also need careful planning by operators. Motorola suggests three guidelines for operators as a result of its trial: a lot of processing power to reduce latency; adopting equalizer signal processing in handsets; and giving video services priority. Report

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