Enhancing Broadband with UMTS Universal Mobile Telephone Service

by Crucible Multimedia

Background

The introduction of UMTS services in the UK has not been without problems. Though conceived and developed in an international environment well removed from the tech boom hysteria that drove business models and capital investments in the late 1990s, UMTS was introduced when expectations about all new technologies were at their highest. UMTS business models were defined by the hype. As the market has collapsed and UMTS has experienced the normal delays that characterise the introduction of any new technology, UMTS has come under close and deserved scrutiny. Yet the technology remains fundamentally sound and the applications that UMTS and other 3G networks are unique. UMTS still has the potential to create new ways of working and new opportunities for businesses and consumers alike. Thus, the BSG believes that the deployment of a robust UMTS infrastructure can play a significant role in the development of broadband in Britain.

Characteristics and Features

UMTS is part of a family of wireless technologies that were developed to provide high data throughput, operator-class mobile broadband connectivity to a broad range of users. UMTS offers a wide range of characteristics and features including:

* Mobility-UMTS is a fully mobile technology. It enables cost-effective delivery of wide-area mobile office services, taking broadband connectivity beyond the coffee house or corporate campus.

* High-speed/throughputs - UMTS delivers the minimum data throughput rates demanded by mobile professionals any time, anywhere. First deployments of UMTS are expected to support data rates of 384kbps. Substantially higher data rates are expected as the technology matures.

* Security - The 3GPP UMTS standards ensure that the UMTS air-interface is inherently highly secure. Furthermore, the high bandwidth delivered by UMTS means that end-to-end, application-level security (e.g. IPSec) can be supported alongside acceptable data throughput.

* Convenience- Plug-in, easy-to-install UMTS data cards provides laptop PCs and PDAs with convenient wireless connectivity.

UMTS and 802.11

Rather than compete, UMTS complements WiFi/802.11 and FWA in Britain's broadband infrastructure. UMTS makes other wireless access technologies, as well as fixed broadband networks, more powerful by offering a mobile component.

UMTS is specifically interoperable with WLAN networks. Equipment manufacturers have already demonstrated seamless handover between UMTS and WLAN, including integrated billing, which is an essential factor for ensuring easy and effective use of broadband resources. By linking to UMTS networks, "hot spot" coverage in dense business traffic locations (e.g. airport lounges, hotels and conference centres) can be automatically extended to other places where users actually find themselves, making both technologies more useful, and therefore more successful.

Initial Market: Data First

Market research indicates that there is an existing demand for a variety of data services that ultimately can only be provided over UMTS networks. Specifically, studies have shown that a variety of corporate and business users (users who typically account for more than half of a mobile operators revenues) currently want comprehensive "mobile office" services. They want to provide their mobile workers with high-speed, secure, remote access to the same IT services and information available on their office-based Local Area Network (LAN). While currently available networks can meet some of these requirements, because of its technical characteristics and the spectrum in which it operates, UMTS, like other 3G technologies, can uniquely provide the speed, security, mobility, and capacity to address the demand in the mobile professional sector, which is expected to grow from 1.7 million in 2000 to more than 4.8 million in the UK by 2005 ("Western European Teleworking: Mobile Workers and Telecommuters, 2000-2005" International Data Corporation (IDC) (October 2001)).

Data Devices Available.

Plug-in UMTS modem cards are initially expected provide mobile workers' existing laptops and PDAs with wireless data connectivity to their office-based data via a highly secure mobile Virtual Private Network (VPN) across the mobile operator's public UMTS network. These devices should be available in commercial quantities in early 2003. Re-use of existing end-user devices means that adoption of mobile services need not be delayed by lack of availability of UMTS handsets.

In the longer term, as UMTS handsets become commercially available and consumer-centric mobile multimedia services are launched, adoption by the mass market will begin, complementing the fixed broadband services available in homes across the UK.

Appeal for network operators

Deployment of robust data-centric UMTS networks to meet the mobile data demands of the enterprise market gives mobile operators a new business opportunity. It gives them early access to prime users; revenues generated will generate a return on investments in spectrum and upgraded infrastructure.

Conclusion

There is a place in Broadband Britain for UMTS. It is one of the tools that will unlock another aspect of broadband's potential initially by opening profitable new growth segments and driving new business models for mobile workers and later by enabling a variety of new experiences for consumers. While UMTS deployment has not met initial expectations, demand exists for enterprise data services that UMTS is uniquely able to support. Devices are ready today to connect laptops and PDAs to UMTS networks. Once the networks are built, a broader variety of customers will also be able to explore the power and flexibility of full mobile broadband connectivity.

UMTS does not replace other wireless technologies; instead it complements them, adding to their appeal and the profitability of their business models. It facilitates a vision of bringing broadband access to the widest cross-section of Britain as possible. For this reason, the BSG supports development of UMTS in the UK.

Reviewed January 2011

last updated : 21/01/2011



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