VANCOVUER — Another front in the wireless wars opened this week when Telus Mobility announced the launch of its 1X mobile computing solution, the next generation of the wireless CDMA standard, across Canada.
The Telus rollout, which
has been in testing mode for months, follows the recent launch of a national wireless network by rival Rogers/AT&T, using the competing GSM/GRPS wireless standard. Bell Mobility also launched a 1X network in March.
Telus will be marketing the 1X service as an easy-to install, out-of-the-box wireless solution called Velocity Wireless. Included in the box will be a 1X access package and a recently released AirCard 555 wireless network card from Sierra Wireless designed for 1X, as well as an e-mail address and Web storage space from Telus.net. A CD-ROM will walk the user through the install process.
Velocity will differ from traditional wireless services by charging users for data transmitted and received, rather than billing for air time, with access packages ranging from $30 for 5MB to $100 for unlimited usage each month.
In addition to the boxed Velocity solution, Telus will also aim 1X at higher-end corporate enterprise customers through channel partners like HP Canada and Logicorp Inc.
Neil Cusati, British Columbia vice-president for Telus Mobility, says the 1X network will give users a substantially faster wireless service then they have today, with speeds approaching 60k/second. The service will also allow Telus to double the voice capacity of its network, resulting in fewer blocked calls.
“We expect this to do for wireless what ADSL has done for the wireline side,” Cusati said.
The 1X service is available in most major Canadian cities, with service expected to expand across the rest of Canada, and into the U.S. through a roaming agreement with Verizon, throughout 2002.
Sierra Wireless Inc. has designed a version of its wireless AirCard to run on the Telus 1X network, the seventh in Sierra’s AirCard family, and also built a version to bundle with Rogers/AT&T’s competing GSM/GRPS network. Sierra Wireless president and COO Glen Brownlee said it remains to be seen where the battle between the two standards will fall, but for now he’s staying firmly in the middle.
“We like to think of ourselves as an arms merchant. We’ll build bullets for both sides of the war,” joked Brownlee.
To date, CDMA has been the dominant standard in North America, although GSM/GRPS, the major player in Europe, is making inroads. Brownlee said the differences between the two standards are negligible, and each are going after the same customers, both the blue-collar market and corporate clients.
“I think it’s really going to come down to the carriers themselves and the networks they put out,” Brownlee said. “Footprint for networks is a big issue, and the kind of solutions we and the carriers put together for the end customers are going to be the things that distinguish one approach from another.”
It’s a debate that Brownlee says has been going on in the wireless telecommunications industry for the past 10 years. It remains to be seen whether CDMA and GSM/GRPS will converge into one technology at a new version of 3G wireless in the works called UMTS or wide-band CDMA.
In the meantime, for customers, the best service and the best deals remain more important than the battle being waged behind the scenes, he added.