Bell and Telus have launched their third-generation (3G) wireless networks, which typically give users transfer rates of 400 to 700 Kilobits per second.Telus Mobility’s service will be available in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.
Both companies use evolution data-optimized (EV-DO) equipment, while Rogers Wireless is running trials of UMTS.
Bell’s $100-million network was launched five months ahead of schedule in October. Bell Mobility executives said the network will be available in the Greater Toronto Area and Montreal immediately, to be followed with a nationwide rollout early next year. It will allow download rates of 2.4 Mbps, with average speeds of 400 to 700 Kbps. Bell announced its plans for an EV-DO network late last year, conducting pilots in Toronto.
To help stimulate the market, Bell is also offering three EV-DO-compatible hardware devices. These include the Kyocera Passport, the BlackBerry 7130e and the Samsung a920.
Telus Mobility is also reselling the BlackBerry 7130e, as well as the Kyocera Passport KPC650 and the Pocket PC 6700, a Windows Mobile 5.0-based device with full QWERTY keyboard manufactured by UTStarcom Inc. of Alameda, Calif.
Adel Bazerghi, Bell’s vice-president of wireless technology, said the network will be backwards compatible with its 1XRTT network, allowing data session handoffs through standard mobile network protocols. The carrier sees remote access to corporate data and applications such as sales force automation, customer relationship management, e-mail with heavy attachments and schematic diagrams as the most likely attractions for enterprise users.
But analysts who follow the wireless infrastructure market say carriers who have adopted it in the United States haven’t seen a return on their investment.
Lisa Pierce, vice-president of Forrester’s Telecom and Network Research Group, said there are several indicators that suggest Verizon, for example, is “disappointed” with EV-DO, such as the sluggish performance of its five dollar a month service to transmit photos.
“It’s a software overlay. It can be significant from financial standpoint, but only as EDGE is to GPRS,” she said.
Allen Nogee, principle analyst for the Wireless Component Technology Service at Scottsdale, Ariz.-based In-Stat/MDR, said EV-DO services may end up competing with Wi-Fi. Earlier this year, in fact, Verizon decommissioned the hundreds of free Wi-Fi hotspots it turned up in New York City two years ago in a move analysts said was designed to emphasize its EV-DO service. Bell has also helped set up hotspots.
“It has been light,” Nogee said of EV-DO’s market growth. “A lot of business people have a broadband connection … the demand for the area in between just isn’t all that great yet.”
Pierce said there were major opportunities to transform businesses and governments through EV-DO, but doing so could require some organizational changes.
“It does take quite a while for non-road users and for the company to get its act together to really be able to use these services,” she said. “You need to set up the policies, determine what the applications are and which are the most important.”
Bazerghi said Bell was confident EV-DO is a good long-term strategy.
“A lot of the developers, including many we all know, are putting in hooks for wireless in their applications,” he said. “The only thing that’s been missing was the performance on the devices as well as the network.”

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