EDGE limited mainly by time slots available in current PC cards, according to Rogers VP

Enhanced Data rates for GPRS Evolution (EDGE), a wireless data standard, provides throughput of anywhere from 90 to 170 Kilobits per second, depending on the application. General packet radio services (GPRS) is similar to dial-up Internet providing transfer rates of about 50 Kbps.

Rogers Wireless

Inc. has recently made EDGE available to 93 per cent of the Canadian population. Its first product is the Sony Ericsson GC-82 PC Card.

Rogers Wireless’ vice-president of new product development, David Neale, spoke with Communications & Networking about the EDGE service, the applications it will support and whether it really meets third-generation (3G) standards.

C&N: Can you confirm the top speed would normally be 200 Kilobits per second?

DN: The fastest EDGE device can operate at eight time slots. Each time slot would be about 56 K, so basically the top speed would be eight times 56. The (Sony Ericsson) PC card comes out at four time slots, which means it can peak at over 236 Ks. What we would expect is that you’d see consistent throughput, at around 90 K. You will see it spike at 170 K, sometimes over 200 K, so that gives you some idea of the actual user experience. That 90 K that we’re citing uses something like Web browsing, which is not the most efficient of things. When you start to use things like Citrix, and you’re starting to use a VPN connection you will see better performance even than Web browsing. If I look at the definition of 3G technology, we’ll generally talk about 115 Kbps in a mobile environment and 384 Kbps in a portable environment. This makes the technology compliant, because it has that capability.

C&N: My understanding is the 384 Kbps would refer to somebody with an EDGE card, so with the Sony Ericsson model you actually wouldn’t be 3G compliant?

DN: No, because it won’t support eight time slots. GC-82 is taking four time slots. It would be running at a peak of 230K, which would not be 384K, but it will do the 115K in a mobile environment. There are devices which are running at eight time slots, which means they could be peaking at the 3G speeds. To your point, the technologies are 3G compliant but the devices don’t necessarily deliver the peak 3G speeds quite yet.

C&N: Does Rogers have any plan for a next step for your 3G offerings? You now have EDGE to 93 per cent of the Canadian population. Are you going to wait and see how the adoption is?

DN: Yes, generally we base all of the technology upgrades on commercial viability. When it comes to a technology upgrade, it’s usually best for us to allow some of the big network players to actually go through the initial rollout phase. We’ll probably be in the experimental phase, but commercially, we’d wait until there was a proven viable market there.

C&N: Based on the EDGE trials you did in the Vancouver area, and other feedback you’ve received, do you have any predictions as to what the initial markets will be? Will it be mainly some of these vertical applications using Citrix?

DN: My expectation is the very first people that will see a benefit for this will be those that had been somewhat disappointed with their experiences to date. We did see that GPRS and 1X users, when they moved to EDGE and tried the GC-82 did notice a definite improvement, and that’s why we were encouraged to go ahead and do the release.

C&N: Are you looking at vertical-specific applications as opposed to e-mail or just simply wanting to send large attachments?

DN: We expect the application would initially be enterprise. It’s probably wireless desktop access. It might be through a vertical application provider like Citrix, or it might be for an enterprise-wide e-mail type deployment, in which case you could use standard e-mail clients and you could run it over a virtual private network.

C&N: What are some of the technical challenges that were involved in rolling EDGE out nationwide, overlaying it on your GSM/GPRS network?

DN: The beauty of it was, there was very little technical challenge at all, for two reasons. One, because the EDGE upgrade on the base stations was software, it was, for all intents and purposes, flipping a switch. The other thing is there are quite a large number of EDGE networks that have been turned up, so there is great benefit when we can work with our vendor, Ericsson, and the experience they have had.

C&N: Since (the GC-82) was the first in a series of products, can you comment in general on what we could expect to see in the future?

DN: You might expect that the minute we have access to better bandwidth, we have better access to more graphical type applications. You’re going to see more featured handsets take advantage of that faster bandwidth. You can draw your own conclusions as to what some of the products might be, but generally much more graphical, generally faster and of course the primary service that’s on the phone, which is voice, is not affected in any way at all.

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