Countdown has started: On the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea a UMTS network will go live at the end of Summer this year. It will be almost exactly ten years since the beginning of the era of digital mobile radio based on the GSM standard (Global System for Mobile Communications) that is so successful today and 125 years after the first telephone conversation in 1876 made by the legendary Alexander Graham Bell.
The UMTS network on the Isle of Man is more than just a test network or a field trial. It already has all the important functions such as a customer care system, billing systems and the first new applications such as location-based services and games. From the end of this Summer, the first customers of Manx Telecom, a wholly-owned subsidiary of British Telecom and sole tele-phone operator on the island, will have front row seats at the world premiere of Third Generation (3G) mobile radio. They will be the first telephone subscribers to enter the multimedia world of UMTS.
Rapid, mobile access to internet contents, entertainment offerings, games, e-mail services, online banking or video telephony. The offering will be continually updated and expanded to include banking and business services. The Third Generation mobile phone that will be used on the Isle of Man for the first time, is far from being just a voice telephone. The UMTS terminals of the future are complete multimedia terminals with high-resolution displays, video cameras and improved sound reproduction. Experts are working intensively, around the clock, programming software, erecting radio masts, laying cables and making test calls. However, the network build to date currently covers around 70 percent of the population.
Strategic aims of Siemens
For Siemens Mobile commissioning the network on the Isle of Man is an important milestone on the way to developing commercial UMTS technology. The Isle of Man project is a showcase project for Siemens Mobile. The experience gained in practice will be fed into developing and building 3G networks in other countries. Siemens builds UMTS infrastructures around the world. In the last six months, Siemens Mobile concluded numerous agreements in Europe for provisioning network infrastructures UMTS/3G, ranking it third in the world among network suppliers.
Siemens Mobile started developing UMTS in 1992 and since then has steadily increased its development resources. There are around 4000 engineers currently working on the future mobile radio generation. Research and development costs per year are around EUR 800 million. The key to UMTS/3G sales success is the alliance with NEC Corporation, Tokyo. Siemens and NEC have been working together since 1999 and are the only equipment suppliers who can cover the entire UMTS range. Together they founded the joint venture known as "Mobisphere Inc." headquartered in Reading, near London.
The strategic partners on the Isle of Man project are:
Manx Telecom Ltd., hundred percent subsidiary of British Telecom plc.
British Telecom and BT wireless
Siemens Information and Communication Mobile
The billing system for raising charges was developed by Cerillion Technologies. Planning and implementation of the first commercial UMTS network in the world is being undertaken in close agreement with the partners involved. The project includes planning, installation, commissioning and maintenance of the network as well as staff training.
UMTS network infrastructure
Together with NEC Corporation, who are providing the first terminals, Siemens Mobile is supplying the complete network infrastructure for UMTS operation. This includes the core network as well as the complete technology for the radio network UTRAN (UMTS Terrestrial Radio Access Network) and the application "Isle of Man on Air" developed by the Siemens research center, Roke Manor Research.
30 UMTS base stations, known as Node B, will be built for the radio network (UTRAN). All UMTS base stations, for which existing GSM radio mast locations will mainly be used, will be linked via a central control unit known as a Radio Network Controller (RNC) and integrated via the core network into the existing networks.
The transmission process known as FDD (Frequency Division Duplex, W-CDMA) will be used on the Isle of Man that will rapidly provide radio coverage throughout the region.
Data transmission will be circuit switched and packet switched. Circuit switched connections exist when there is a permanent connection between two mobile radio subscribers. For packet switched transmission however there is no exclusive transmission channel. The data to be transported is divided into packets just as for Internet Protocol. This means that the available bandwidth can be better used. Mobile radio subscribers can be permanently connected to the network as only data packets addressed to them arrive at their terminal. FDD or W-CDMA mode enables a theoretical data transfer capacity of 64 Kbps (Kilobit per second) in the uplink, from the user to the network and 384 Kbps in the downlink, from the network to the mobile radio subscriber. By comparison, the current GSM standard supports transmission rates of only 9.6 Kbps.
The following mobile applications will be available on the Isle of Man from the end of the Summer.
"Isle of Man on Air" (Siemens)
Mobile Office (Manx Telecom)
Video Content (MT & BT Openworld)
Video Telephony (NEC)
Enhanced WAP (Infinite)
Live Video (Imagecom)
Gaming Services (Gameplay)
"Isle of Man on Air": The first location-based service
Setting up the radio and switching technology is only one part of the Isle of Man project for Siemens. UMTS requires its own contents and applications. Siemens Mobile has made mobile applications its strategic focal point. As well as services such as mobile games or banking, these applications include the new location-based services.
"Isle of Man on Air" is a Location Based Service, that has been developed by Siemens Mobile. "Isle of Man on Air" provides UMTS users with location-specific information respective of their location on the island. The "Island Guide" provides users with extensive information in words, images and sounds about the tourist attractions on the island. It can provide a restaurant guide, information on golf courses and taxi companies, or show the way to the prettiest pub on the Isle of Man. Under the menu "Find the nearest ..." it not only shows the nearest pub but also the nearest bank machine. The hotel finder makes finding accommodation on the island so much easier thanks to its maps, navigation system and online reservation system.
Isle of Man project time line
April 1999 Manx Telecom receives UMTS license from Island authorities
May 1999 A key factor in the network planning is the most extensive possible use of the existing Manx Telecom telecommunication infrastructure. This should be achieved by integrating and using existing GSM antenna sites.
July 1999 Invitation to tender process launched for equipment suppliers
Dec. 1999 Siemens and NEC, global technology leader for UMTS/3G technology, become partners of Manx Telecom Ltd. and British Telecom plc. (BT)
Feb. 2000 Project start
May 2000 Products and partners selected for applications. Siemens research laboratory, Roke Manor Research, commissioned to develop location-based service "Isle of Man on Air".
June 2000 Preparatory work for building base stations
Dec. 2000 Supply and installation of first UMTS base stations on the Isle of Man begins
End of Summer
2001 Start of the UMTS/3G network on the Isle of Man
Transfer rates: Uplink 64 Kbps
Downlink 384 Kbps