Rogers Wireless Inc. claims its national network now provides third-generation (3G) services, but the head of a device manufacturer warns it will be hard for carriers to make money on the technology.

Jim Balsillie, chairman and co-chief executive officer of Research in Motion (RIM) Ltd., said

upgrading a cellular network to support Enhanced Data rates for General packet radio services Evolution (EDGE) is very expensive and is difficult to install properly.

“”We’re spooked on the economics and physics”” of EDGE, Balsillie said during a keynote address at last month’s Wireless & Mobile WorldExpo in Toronto. “”This stuff is very technically complex and capital-intensive.””

Rogers Wireless announced last month the national rollout of its EDGE network and the availability of Sony Ericsson GC-82 EDGE PC cards, which can provide data transfer rates of up to 200 Kilobits per second (Kbps).

Although 3G is supposed to provide 384 Kbps to stationary users, the GC-82 has only four time slots, meaning it will normally provide 90 to 170 Kbps, depending on the application and the distance from the cell tower.

GPRS provides speeds of less than 50Kbps.

Balsillie said it’s “”really nice”” to get three times the speed, adding 3G technologies will give users the bandwidth they need for the next two years for most mobile applications.

Although some mobile workers use the Internet at wireless hot spots using Wi-Fi 802.11 cards on their notebook computers and handheld devices, Balsillie does not believe Wi-Fi will provide serious competition to carriers’ 3G service.

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