State of the Global 3G

12 Comments

The 3G networks are going into service worldwide with a regularity, and now even newer telephony markets are getting into the act.

According to RBC Capital Markets, there are 130 WCDMA networks (85 million subscribers) worldwide, of which 73 have been upgraded to HSDPA. In comparison, the data on 3G Today shows that as of September 2006, there were 44.4 million EVDO subscribers worldwide. These numbers are going to increase sharply when US market starts to sizzle. We covered the state of the US market yesterday, comparing the EVDO and HSDPA markets.


The big bump however will come when the fast growing markets such as China, India and Brazil get into the 3G action. China is expected to get going next year, but who knows what goes on there.

The word out of India, according to local newspapers is that first 3G network in that country would be live by middle of 2007. The services will be available in the 450MHz, 800MHz and 2100MHz bands, and the local regulator is now making the 1900 MHz available for the CDMA-based operators to trial their 3G services and set a time frame for launch.

12 Comments

John Thacker

“So far, based on Japan, the answer is mixed but largely negative, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3G

Hmm. Interesting cite, since it claims:
“In 2005, about 40% of subscribers used 3G networks only, with 2G being on the way out in Japan.” It also goes on to note that the transition to 3G is essentially complete in Japan, and that music download services are a big reason for its success. (Something I can attest to from being in Japan).

You are right that the GSM to UMTS/WCDMA transition may indeed take a long time because GSM and UMTS have considerably different air interfaces.

“there is, as far as I can tell, no requirement that traditional 2G GSM vendors adopt it. It is strictly optional.”

You should look at the standards bodies more closely. There are several reasons (not least of which encryption and security issues) why most vendors are shifting to 3G services. In addition, the existing GSM stack is completely unable of transmitting at a higher data rate. There is no upgrade path for GSM, outside of transitioning to the (quite different, at least at the air interface level) WCDMA.

http://www.3gpp.org/

You may well be right that there may not be demand for the higher data rate communications, and that people will be satisfied with voice alone, and thus that 2G GSM will stick around. In many areas it very well may. However, the example of Japan, far from supporting your position, suggests the opposite (even in the webpage you cite), that people are greatly willing to sign up for a 3G service in order to get applications like music downloads.

Ray Lopez

John Thacker: thanks for your comment. Let me now do a quick Google search at Ask.com, as I don’t believe the connotation of your remark.

OK I figured it out. You are not wrong but overly optimistic about GSM morphing into CDMA.

You said: “Ray, your comment seems confused. GSM is moving to WCDMA, and that is a 3G service. The official GSM standards body has decreed it.”

True, but this means nothing. From what I can tell, from link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UniversalMobileTelecommunications_System, the UMTS European body has adopted a new GSM that indeed is more like CDMA (it uses spread spectrum rather than Time Division Multiplexing) but there is, as far as I can tell, no requirement that traditional 2G GSM vendors adopt it. It is strictly optional.

So the marketplace will decide whether 3G (which indeed uses CDMA) will be adopted. So far, based on Japan, the answer is mixed but largely negative, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3G

RL

Slav Pidgorny

We have never seen reliable statistic on how many phone numbers are actually active e.g. placed voice or data call in the last month.

jose

I am always amused by mobile phone statistics. Apparently they consider selling a phone a “subscriber”, even though strictly speaking that’s not true.

Wrong, they consider selling a SIM card as a subscriber. Multiple counting of “subscribers” in the GSM world.

Even the firm behind the GSM Association statistics (Wireless Intelligence which is co-owned by GSM Association themselves) — acknowledge that there might be 500 million double counting in the GSM numbers.

John Thacker

3G offers better “QoS” (basically it won’t drop your calls as easy) and allows faster data transfers (good for sending photos wirelessly) but GSM can make up for its shortcomings by building more GSM towers.

CDMA has certain advantages in a low density environment; GSM has certain advantages in a high density environment. GSM has some definite weaknesses in rural areas where “building more towers” isn’t an issue.

Also, Ray, your comment seems confused. GSM is moving to WCDMA, and that is a 3G service. The official GSM standards body has decreed it. There’s a lot of confusion because CDMA is a multiplexing technique but also commonly used to refer to a particular standard. Next generation GSM uses the CDMA multiplexing technique (and is called WCDMA), but is not related to the CDMA standard that’s pushed by Qualcomm (though Qualcomm gets royalties from WCDMA also). WCDMA is not backwards or forwards compatible with GSM (though dual mode phones are available) the way that 2G CDMAOne and 3G CDMA2000 (EV-DO for the data mode) are.

Chetan

Pat:

For a moment my eye balls popped out as to how I missed out that Indian 3G Licenses were awarded and I wasn’t aware of the same. The blog fails to mention it was 2G license. Glad I specifically wrote that this morning when I blogged the same.

Ray Lopez

I am always amused by mobile phone statistics. Apparently they consider selling a phone a “subscriber”, even though strictly speaking that’s not true.

Check out this graph: http://www.3gamericas.org/English/Statistics/2.cfm

It shows GSM is trouncing 3G (CDMA and the like) by nearly 7 to 1. So much for “3 G next generation”.

Quick primer: GSM is old fashioned 2G, but it works. That’s what people are used to. 3G offers better “QoS” (basically it won’t drop your calls as easy) and allows faster data transfers (good for sending photos wirelessly) but GSM can make up for its shortcomings by building more GSM towers.

I would not bet serious money on CDMA (3G), though companies are doing so because its in their charter. Good luck to them. Hope they don’t end up like the fiber optic companies in the late 1990s.

Alex

Hey Om. It would be very nice if you give us links to larger versions of your images plus the source.

(decide: no pics or good pics plus larger versions)

Chetan

With the advancement in GSM equipment tech, Airtel is all set to deploy 3G services on existing 2G networks in India. This has kicked off a new war in India – Charge the 2G spectrum. Oho! Good Grief, My dear CDMA operators!!!

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