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Novatel to ship 42Mbps 3G wireless modem

HSPA+ promises faster download speeds to mobile devices

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Novatel Wireless plans to ship a modem during the second half of 2010 that can receive data at up to 42Mbps (bits per second) in compatible 3G networks, it said.

Novatel's modem will work on networks using Evolved HSPA (High-Speed Packet Access) technology, also known as HSPA+ or HSPA Evolution. To increase the theoretical maximum download speed of the modem from 21M bps to 42M bps, Novatel uses two carrier frequencies instead of the usual one, a technique called dual-carrier. But it will only deliver the higher speed on networks that also support the technique.

Users can expect peak speeds at up to 30Mbps, according to Hans Beijner, marketing manager for radio products at Ericsson. Leif-Olof Wallin, research vice president at Gartner, is a more pessimistic, saying increased traffic on the networks could negatively impact speeds. "I think it will be difficult to get above 20Mbps," he said.

Novatel's modem will be based on a chipset from Qualcomm, the MDM8220. Novatel has completed a data transmission test using the chipset, it said.

Sixty-six operators have said they plan to use HSPA Evolution, and so far 37 networks have been commercially launched, according to statistics from the Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA).

However, the version of HSPA Evolution that supports 42Mbps is still very much in its infancy. Last week, mobile operator 3 Scandinavia announced plans to launch services when modems become available. In December, representatives from Vodafone and the Australian operator Telstra visited Ericsson to Stockholm to view a demonstration, but neither operator has so far announced plans to launch commercial services.

"This year, I think we are mainly going to see more operators roll out support for 21Mbps, and only a handful that add support for 42M bps," said Richard Webb, directing analyst at market research company Infonetics.

Operators will be wary of upgrading to higher speeds before seeing customer demand, according to Webb. That will affect the roll-out of both HSPA at higher speeds and LTE, he said.


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