Mobile Devices Are Getting Ahead of the Networks

I still remember that in the early days of GPRS, the main problem was to get mobile devices that could actually make use of the new network service. The story repeated itself with UMTS where where things became even worse. When UMTS first started, there were lots of networks around but no or only clunky mobile phones available for at least a year or so.

In the meantime it looks like the situation has reversed. Quite a number of 7.2 MBit/s HSPA devices are available, but only few networks yet support ten simultaneous downlink spreading codes and have the required backhaul capacity to the base station. With HSUPA it is quite similar. A number of devices, mainly USB sticks, are available on the market today, but most networks still lack support. And it’s not only in UMTS, where devices are far more capable then most networks today.

Even 2G mobiles now support features that most networks are lacking. The AMR (Adaptive Multi Rate) speech codec is a good example. Widely supported in handsets today, but only used in few networks today, despite the potential capacity increases the feature offers to operators. Or take DTM (Dual Transfer Mode), which enables simultaneous voice calls and Internet connectivity for GSM/GPRS/EDGE devices. Again, many mobiles support this today and it could be put into good use especially with feature phones. However, I haven’t seen a single network that supports it in practice.

A worrying trend. Are the standards bodies specifying too much?

6 thoughts on “Mobile Devices Are Getting Ahead of the Networks”

  1. Does that mean that network providers and operators are now paying more attention to the market and to what mobile vendor actually implement before investing huge amounts of $$ ?

    I have some good examples of features being standardized in 3GPP for nothing (and sometimes developped in the network): 2G/HSCSD, 3G/CPCH, 3G/DSCH, … The list is far from being exhaustive.

  2. At least for the operator I work with it all comes down to money. Our RAN/GERAN vendors charge us large amounts of money per feature. For HSDPA for example the licensing scheme is per code! For some other features operators prefer to seed the market first before making large investments for features that only few devices can use. The large amount of money that leased lines cost is also prohibiting the widespread deployment of 7.2Mbps. As the market is so competative and the profit margins shrink technical investment is reduced to the bare essentials..

  3. Hi Srinu,

    I am afraid that they don’t, because H3G ‘only’ has a 3G network deployed in Italy where simultaneous voice + data is the norm. DTM is 2.5G (GSM+GPRS/EDGE).


  4. AMR isn’t deployed? That’s news to me. Here in the US, both national GSM carriers (T-Mobile and AT&T) use AMR.

    T-Mobile uses AMR-FR, while most of AT&T’s network defaults to AMR-HR.

    Unfortunately, you’re right about DTM. I wish that were supported at the network level.

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