Solid support

The peddling by European network vendors of the benefits of HSDPA as an upgrade to WCDMA appears to have paid off with more than 140 networks around the world considered HSDPA-ready. In the Middle East, the proportion of HSDPA deployments is definitely smaller, though the converted are making a strong case for the benefits accruing from the upgrade.

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By  Administrator Published  July 15, 2007

As of end March there were 10 mobile operators that had launched High Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) in the Middle East, according toinformation from the Global mobile Suppliers' Association (GSA). Globally the network technology has gained significant traction with 147 reported networks in place at the end of March.

"This service will benefit users whether they use it for business or personal needs. On the 3.5G network, customers can greatly enhance their access to news, email, establish contact with others and access information over the internet. We are sure that this will enable our customers to reach their goals and ambitions," says Essa Al Haddad, chief marketing officer of Etisalat.

"To enable our customers to enjoy 3.5G services immediately, we have automatically upgraded a large number of end users, including those who currently use 3.5G/3G enabled handsets on the Pay-As-You Go option. This has taken our total number of 3.5G/3G subscribers to over 850,000, positioning Etisalat alongside international leading operators in terms of 3.5G penetration," Haddad added, speaking in May. "These subscribers will be able to enjoy advanced services over Etisalat's 3.5G network, which covers over 90% of the populated areas of the UAE."

Etisalat introduced a package that enabled customers to log on to its 3.5G network and enjoy advanced services without having to pay any registration or monthly rental fees. The operator claims that its 3.5G network is the gateway for mobile users to experience next generation mobile technology. With advanced video calling capabilities, Etisalat customers are able to see each other live while on a call.

In addition, Etisalat's HSDPA network also enables users to gain high-speed mobile internet access of up to 2Mbps using 3.5G mobile handset devices and data cards.

"In the Middle East there are eight countries that have deployed HSDPA, and we are looking at something like 10 operators," states Fabio d'Emilio, senior vice president of LCC International, a telecoms consulting company. "End users are adopting more technologies, so I think in general the Middle East market is growing into using an internet connection more, using a PDA and emails more. So there's an underlying market of need that is growing much faster than it is in Europe and that need could be responded to with HSDPA."

Etisalat's Mobily subsidiary in Saudi Arabia is in no doubt of the benefits being driven by the introduction of HSDPA services. In an interview with CommsMEA in April, Mobily CEO Khaled Al Kaf said he believed more still needed to be done to fully capitalise on the operator's investment in HSDPA. He suggested 2007 would be the year for this to begin to be achieved as he saw much room left for the operator to improve in the way it communicates the benefits of the technology to end-users.

HSDPA state of play

There are 100 commercial HSDPA networks in 54 countries/territories:

Canada, Chile, Puerto Rico and USA

Australia, Cambodia, HK, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, NZ, Philippines, Singapore, S. Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan

Europe: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech R, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, IoM, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Madeira, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovak R, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and UK (HSDPA is commercially available in 25 of the 27 EU countries)

Middle East/Africa: Bahrain, Israel, Kuwait, Namibia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Tanzania, and UAE

75 of 147 HSDPA operators are deploying GSM/EDGE for service continuity and the best user experience in areas outside HSDPA coverage. 51 of 100 commercially launched HSDPA networks have also commercially launched EDGE.

Source: Global mobile Suppliers' Association

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