June 11, 2006

3G is here, but i still talk the same talk!

Even if you were not a mobile savvy, chances are you’re well aware of the term 3G, the future-fantastic mobile ”genera” (the –dominant technology is called UMTS) that promises to revolutionize the way we communicate, you’ll be able to do "wonderful" stuff like video calling from your mobile, watch miniature digital TV broadcasting & wireless broadband internet (not). In Saudi 3G (they even claim 3.5G) is here, but nothing changed until now!

Let me put it straight, I’m a technology skeptical despite being a lucrative early-adaptor (the marketing-term for punters who rush to buy stuff while hot & not minding the premium & the bugs) when I go shopping, but I’m an industry insider non the less! Ehm… I know stuff that the average I-take-it-for-granted-using-my-mobile-while-in-an-elevator mobile user wouldn’t give a flying thought knowing it or care less for his ignorance in such field, if this doesn’t turn you off, then by all means, you’re not one of them, continue reading if you will.

3G is a fad (3.5, 4 & beyond), vendors & operators are starting to recognize this fact, the only reason that the fad is still striving until this day, is simply because handset vendors were intuitive by integrating their 2.5G (nice way of saying GSM with GPRS) handsets with some/many of the features facilitated by 3G.

So if you’ve bought a mobile phone in the past few months, there’s a good chance you’re ready to use 3G services providing your network is ready to offer it. In Jordan, I’m only aware of MobileCom offering a reliable EDGE data service (classified as 2.75G) that somewhat offer slightly-better-than-dial-up connectivity but at a premium. Fastlink is in the initial steps of deploying their 3G network, Umniah are ready but hesitant while XPress is competing on a total different front they’re not bothered with 3G and its hyped endeavors.

So before you’re taken by fancy marketing campaigns about what you’ll be able to do, let’s review the services you’ll probably be bombarded with when 3G is launched:

First, it’s the science-fiction prophecy of video telephony being materialized! Nothing novel, most of us used video chatting on the net already, but never used a “real” handset dedicated to that specific function. Yes its cool & hip, but even if the per-minute pricing was acceptable (it won’t be), what practical applications for such offer? It’s been engraved to our contemporary human development to comprehend speaking with those distant from where we are without needing to see them, I mean the thrill of seeing the person you're talking to wear off in a couple of minutes of talking & actually becomes a burden…

I can only think of it as the next big thing here in Saudi, given the success & impact of Bluetooth as a powerful communication medium in such a gender-segregated society, where now those who typicaly can’t meet in person can now at least see each other while talking over the phone (no fault in contemplating the explicit)…


remember, video-telephony is being offered in the UK through its 3G network three since 2003, but with no much success to capture the hearts of the mobile savvy.

Second, watching TV while on the move, since most of us store funny, interesting or explicit clips on their multimedia phones to kill some time with friends, so probably if you’re stuck in transit & about to miss your favorite series, then I can see why you would pay extra to watch it on the move even if it was 2” screen that you’ll be watching it on. So yes, mobile TV is a good idea, but watch out for battery life.

Finally, the most interesting offering (if delivered upon) is wireless broadband internet connectivity, the main concern is how “real” will be the internet they’ll be offering, how much of the “free” or “cheap/er” goodies of the internet will they be blocking? Would I be able to use Skype, instant messenger services by third parties or any other communication medium that will bypass their core voice/SMS/MMS infrastructure?

And for those IP networking gurus, there’s a huge business that’s booming with packet monitioring and interception software & hardware to do just that… What? our customer is about to use Skype to call his brother abroad through OUR data network for “almost” free & not pay for it through our VOICE network? Darn these Skype packets, corrupt them. It’ll be even more interesting to see the counter development of software that will find loop holes around the new trend of IP policemen.

Probably, they will let you browse the friendly non-revenue-slashing internet quiet freely, but it won’t be like having a real internet “pipe” connection similar to your ADSL/leased-line, not to mention the cost, I doubt any unlimited rate-plans, if any they’ll probably be capped with a definite fair-use agreement written in the small print, while the per mega-byte rate-plan will be ridiculously expensive, so it'll be a subsidized internet-like IP service rather than the internet you're used to!

Let’s talk speed, yes with 3.5G technology such as HSPDA you can get download speeds up to 2Mbps, but that’s the maximum connection speed between your handset and the base-station (tower) you’re connected to, what’s after that? The “tower” is typically connected (backhauled) to the operator’s main-switch through special leased-lines/Microwave-links (typically a single E1 & less commonly a couple of them) with limited capacity to fit existing voice traffic, so little chance you’ll be getting a true 2Mpbs connection.

Simple math is all what it takes, if you’re connected from A to B with a 2Mpbs speed along with say, 10 others, and B is connected to C (assume this will be the internet) through a single 2Mbps connection or even 4Mbps? How much bandwidth each of you will be getting?

So before you go buy expensive PCMCIA cards for your laptops or HSPDA ready-handsets with an up-sale expensive data-cables (to buy-pass Bluetooth latency), wait until the technology matures or get merged with other existing products like the Wifi/WiMax/HSPDA ready laptops coming out in the course of this yeas.

5 comments:

Mohammed Rimawi said...

Very intersting Post.

Anonymous said...

so you think this is just another stage in the my-mobile-stores-151-and not-just-150-tunes progression. very interesting indeed.

raincity said...

Thanks for an insightful post. Yes, the marketing department is always ahead of the technologial reality of what's truly delivered. In saturated mobile markets, the only option for the carriers to generate higher earnings is through content.

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