Lagging State of 3G Mobile Services Debated

Many vendors agree that support for WLANs is key. And Wi-Fi, which has gained more market momentum than 3G, has many industry leaders remaining hopeful that one will supplement the other.

As handset makers and wireless carriers continue to debate fault for the lagging state of third-generation mobile services, both camps agree its necessary to support WLANs as well as WANs.

"There wont be a battle of competing technologies," said Paul Otellini, president and chief operating officer of Intel Corp., at the 3GSM World Congress in Cannes, France, last week. "It will be a requirement that Wi-Fi, WiMax [IEEE 802.16] and 3G coexist."

To that end, Otellini unveiled a three-radio design for a cell phone that supports Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Global System for Mobile Communications/General Packet Radio Service.

Nokia Corp.s new 9500 Communicator supports all three, although Nokia isnt licensing its design. Such devices are just the things many carriers say are needed to jump-start third-generation services.

"We cant turn the future on until we have handsets that are at least as good as the 2G and 2.5G ones we have," Arun Sarin, CEO of British carrier Vodafone Group, said at the conference.

Others, however, traced fault to the carriers themselves. "What about the handset guys being frustrated that operators havent shown the reason for 3G?" said Ken Dulaney, an analyst at Gartner Inc., in San Jose, Calif. "They are doing a terrible job of defining enterprise-use models."

Customers, meanwhile, say theres enough blame to go around. "If the data rates and coverage were up to snuff, and the prices were not as [high], you would see a lot more uptake of 3G," said Jorge Abellas-Martin, CIO of Boston-based Arnold Worldwide and an eWEEK Corporate Partner.

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Addressing such concerns, several vendors at the event focused on Wi-Fi, which has gained more market momentum than 3G. Many industry leaders remain hopeful that one will supplement the other.

Intel joined Cisco Systems Inc. and T-Mobile USA Inc. last week to announce a three-month proof-of-concept test pilot during which users in Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States will test services that combine WLAN (wireless LAN) and WAN access.

Meanwhile, London smart-phone operating system developer Symbian Ltd. joined TapRoot Systems Inc. to announce that TapRoots CommP 802.11 subsystem is now available to Symbian OS licensees, which makes it easier for hardware licensees to integrate Wi-Fi into Symbian phones.

Kineto Wireless at the show announced it will use silicon from Broadcom Corp. to develop technology that transfers cellular voice and data services to a cable or DSL network using WLANs as the bridge, according to officials in Milpitas, Calif.