GSM operators and vendors committed to the deployment of EDGE 3G technology offered firsthand advice on the rollout, equipment, services and business case scenario of EDGE to an audience of 150 with international operators representing the Americas, Europe, Asia Pacific and the Middle East at the EDGE Operators' Forum on November 19 in Rio de Janeiro.
EDGE has become a global sensation and is being adopted by 60 operators to date from every continent of the world. Cingular Wireless launched the first EDGE services in Indianapolis in June 2003 and other launches in Hong Kong, Thailand and Finland have been reported in the past months. In October, Telefonica Movil Chile became the first Latin American operator to launch EDGE services in its Santiago and Valparaiso markets. In the Americas alone, 37 operators are deploying EDGE in 22 countries. Additionally, the first nationwide EDGE deployment in the U.S. was announced by AT&T Wireless on November 18, 2003, covering 215 million potential subscribers.
Discussions at the EDGE Operators' Forum were led by AT&T Wireless, Digicel Jamaica, Telefonica Movil, TIM Brasil, TIM Italy, and TIM Peru, in addition to EDGE vendors, Alcatel, Ericsson, Motorola, Nokia, Nortel Networks, Siemens and Sony-Ericsson, and global wireless organizations GSM Association, Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) and 3G Americas.
Key points presented:
* Launches and Deployment: EDGE is global. EDGE is being deployed by more than 60 operators representing in excess of 200 million customers in 39 countries throughout the world. There have been seven commercial launches to date, including the recent launch of EDGE nationwide in the U.S. by AT&T Wireless. Many more announcements are expected.
* Economies of scale: EDGE will build upon the economies of scale of the GSM family of technologies -- GSM/GPRS/EDGE/UMTS -- as nearly all base stations deployed in recent years are EDGE-ready and most GSM/GPRS terminals produced by 2004 will also include EDGE. The choice of vendors for EDGE gear is notable, including all major GSM manufacturers, and therefore deployment costs are competitive.
* Market readiness: MMS is taking off with more than 160 live systems worldwide and a large number of MMS-featured phones on the market. GPRS and MMS roaming agreements between operators are being put in place, driving the uptake and preparing the market for EDGE.
* Spectral efficiency: EDGE becomes a highly attractive solution for mobile operators in the Americas as the current macroeconomic conditions do not present a favorable outlook for radio spectrum auctions in the region. EDGE may be deployed within an operator's existing spectrum increasing radio capacity and does not require a new 3G license.
* Complementary to UMTS: EDGE and UMTS/WCDMA share the same packet core network, allowing operators, such as TIM Italy, the flexibility to deploy both technologies in a single harmonized network delivering optimum performance, coverage and flexibility at the lowest cost. For WCDMA license holders who rollout a joint WCDMA/EDGE network, instead of a fully WCDMA-enabled network, a CAPEX saving of 50% can be achieved.
* Cost to upgrade: Operators reported that the cost to upgrade from GSM/GPRS to EDGE is about $1-$2 per person in their licensed area. Abundant choices in leading vendors for infrastructure, terminals and applications have made the deployments competitive.
* Technology Innovation: Service differentiation is another advantage provided to EDGE mobile operators who will be able to provide mobile wireless IP applications at up to theoretical rates of 473 Kbps and averaging 110-120 Kbps in a loaded network. This will allow EDGE operators to begin offering multimedia applications to their customers and securing a highly competitive place in the market as technological innovators.
Chris Pearson, Executive Vice President of 3G Americas, remarked to press and analysts at an EDGE Operators' Forum briefing during GSM Americas, "For those who may have questioned the success of EDGE, have no doubt, EDGE is here and EDGE is global. The economies of scale attributable to a market of nearly one billion customers will be shared by those operators who choose EDGE as part of their 3G technology deployment. We expect that the majority of GSM operators worldwide will deploy EDGE either as a stand-alone technology or as a complement to their UMTS network."
In the past twelve months, GSM has become the fastest growing wireless technology in the Americas, registering 146% growth in Latin America and 55% growth in North America as of 3Q 2003, according to the EMC World Cellular Database. With nearly one billion GSM customers worldwide, GSM is the technology of choice by customers globally as well as in the Americas.