Telecom's turn to rev up 3G

Upload and responsivess the new mantra

After being leap-frogged by Vodafone's High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) upgrade this winter, Telecom is hitting back with Evolution Data Only (EV-DO) Revision A.

Starting off in Auckland CBD, the new 3G broadband is theoretically capable of 3.1Mbit/s downloads, and 1.8Mbit/s uploads. The rest of New Zealand will be covered progressively throughout next year, says Gary Rogers, Telecom manager of mobile data solutions, starting in the city areas.

The service is being launched with a single device, the Sierra Wireless AirCard 595. This PCMCIA Type II device will retail for the same price as the Rev 0 card it replaces, which is $595 including GST on open term, or bundled with the twelve month or longer contracts.

As for other devices, Telecom hasn't yet a roadmap with specifics in place but says there will be a Vodafone Vodem-like USB device, Express Cards and also laptops with Rev A broadband built in next year. Handsets with Rev A support are likely to be the same as those US telco partner Sprint decides on.

Computerworldwas able to test Rev A early, and found that Telecom's stated average performance figures of 800kbit/s downloads, 300kbit/s uploads and 90ms latency were on the conservative side.

At Telecom's Hereford Street offices, the Sierra card hit 2.6Mbit/s downloads and 5-600kbit/s uploads, with latency ranging from 50-70ms. While we're still in the process of doing a full review of the Sierra card, in EV-DO Rev 0 coverage it seems to perform better than the existing device, providing up to 40% faster downloads.

Rogers says the latency improvements are by and large due to improvements in the communications link between the customer device and the cell access point. This he says improves on not only the speed at which the wireless broadband performs, but also the responsiveness and the ability to send and receive data at high bit rates at the same time.

The improved upstream speed and latency compared to Telecom's existing Rev 0 cellular broadband are compelling drivers for business users trying to be more productive, says Telecom spokeswoman Katherine East. Sending materials faster and enjoying greater application responsiveness are important to business customers she says.

Whether or not Telecom will change pricing and data volume plans is up in the air at the moment however. While East recognises that the higher speeds is likely to mean greater data usage by customers, she says that plans with more than the one gigabyte usage allowance per month are under consideration but not yet announced. Likewise, East would not say if Telecom was considering using its strong market position to offer fixed and wireless packages for customers.

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