It's an EV-DO World
April 07, 2006
Look for upgrades to the fast-growing wireless broadband tech used by Verizon Wireless and others, to speed things up enough for VoIP.
Evolution-Data Optimized (EV-DO, pronounced ee-vee-dee-oh) continues to gain ground as the technology underlying wireless broadband from Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel and Alltel in many metro areas. Even before it reaches the ubiquity of regular cellular, it's going to be upgraded from the current 1xEV-DO service to a much faster version.
CDMA2000 1xEV-DO, developed by Qualcomm in 1999, provides download speeds comparable to low-end DSL, about 300 to 500 Kilobits per second (with bursts up to 2Mbps). The new version, called Revision A (Rev. A), ups that data rate to 3.1 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 1.8Mbps upload. The higher capacity could mean not just data downloads but full VoIP services. So it's no wonder Verizon and Sprint are both planning upgrades to Rev. A, though Verizon says it will start this year when products are ready; Sprint plans upgrades in 2007 (but not to the Nextel network, which uses iDEN technology which isn't 3G upgradeable).
Verizon Wireless' BroadbandAccess service uses EV-DO to provide cellular-like data connections no matter where a user travels in a coverage area. The cost is $60 a month if the user signs up with a two-year contract.
Mobile wireless modem vendors Novatel Wireless and Sierra Wireless have both previously announced both PC Card and internal versions of their EV-DO Rev. A products. Sierra showed them off at CTIA with Lucent and Panasonic (the latter had Rev. A embedded in a Toughbook notebook, and announced a deal with Novatel for future embedded using the competing HSDPA technology).
For Rev. A infrastructure, Airvana was demonstrating a base station for in-building EV-DO coverage, and another for air-to-ground communication.
On the office side, Airvana's Universal Access Gateway (UAG) provides fixed/mobile convergence features from operators. Axesstel had new EV-DO gateways in its MV300 series, which combined EV-DO (the current Rev. 0) with a Wi-Fi router and even fax to provide small and large offices with access using EV-DO as backhaul. Linksys also has a new Wi-Fi router using EV-DO backhaul, the Wireless-G Router for Mobile Broadband (model WRT54G3G-NA), which later this year Sprint is planning to resell to its EV-DO subscribers in small businesses so they can have instant office-wide Internet access (or an on-the-go Wi-Fi hotspot).
Similar products include the JunxionBox and Verilink NetPath 2000. Kyocera Wireless has long been selling a similar product made in conjunction with D-Link, but without the backing of the EV-DO providers in fact, Verizon doesn't appreciate heavy users, and is rumored to be talking about a new pricing structure that would charge more for those using more bandwidth. Despite this, Verizon is letting select EV-DO phones now work as EV-DO modems for single laptop use.
The competition from High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) (which Cingular plans to use to upgrade its GSM/EDGE network) doesn't seem to be hurting EV-DO's momentum (and probably only helps). In fact, Qualcomm says that by 2007, EV-DO Revision B should be ready for commercialization. Rev. B is expected to have speeds of 4.9 Mbps in each of three simultaneously used channels, for a combined speed of 14.7 Mbps when downloading.