EDGE has now become a significant enhancement to GSM networks across the Americas, offering high-speed data connections to customers in sixteen countries in the region.
EDGE is now the fastest nationwide wireless data service in both Canada, where EDGE covers 93% of the Canadian population, and in the U.S., where EDGE is available to more than 250 million people. Carriers in Mexico have also adopted EDGE, making service already available to more than 29 million people in major markets throughout the country. In Latin America, EDGE is commercially deployed in eight countries, with seven operators in Brazil in various stages of EDGE implementation, including two operators who launched commercial services in 2004. With coverage essential for enterprise customers, carriers continue to expand their EDGE footprints as regional and rural operators also select the GSM evolution for next generation services.
Less than a year and a half after the first commercial EDGE launch, there are nearly 70 EDGE-capable devices offered by about a dozen manufacturers. The majority of these devices are available in tri-band mode for use throughout the Americas and most of the world, and at prices that are significantly less than world phones that combine GSM and other wireless technologies. Several manufacturers have stated that they plan to include EDGE in most of their future GSM devices due to the widespread adoption of EDGE, as well as the incremental cost it takes to include EDGE-capability in their devices.
Depending on the device, data speeds for EDGE average between 110 and 130 Kbps. These speeds, coupled with the ubiquity of EDGE coverage, provide a compelling value proposition for enterprise customers, especially those supplying modem cards for mobile workers. Connectivity via EDGE modem or phone has led to development of applications building the enterprise markets such as public safety, transportation and logistics, insurance, utilities and healthcare. Companies like John M. Floyd and Associates and government agencies such as the Massachusetts Port Authority use EDGE to wirelessly enable their businesses.
EDGE is a global technology that has been adopted by 154 operators in 87 countries. These carriers represent more than a quarter of a billion customers within their subscriber base today. According to Chris Pearson, President of 3G Americas, "While UMTS/WCDMA has been slated as the de-facto 3G technology for the world, it is expected that the majority of operators who deploy UMTS will also deploy EDGE due to the business case this dual-technology deployment represents." Pearson continued, "Thus we see dual-technology EDGE/UMTS devices now coming on the market that are ensured the economies of scale that the GSM family of technologies is able to deliver."
UMTS customers are growing more rapidly, with 64 networks already in service in 33 countries today. With 19.6 million customers recorded to date, Informa Telecoms & Media expects that there will be 33 million UMTS customers by the end of this year. The U.S. has seen deployment of UMTS in six major markets with announcements by Cingular Wireless to deploy UMTS/HSDPA in both the 850 and 1900 MHz bands in most major markets by the end of 2006. HSDPA (High Speed Downlink Packet Access) is an enhancement to UMTS that will deliver 2.5X to 3.5X the spectral efficiency and five times the data speeds of UMTS. UMTS/HSDPA will initially support up to 3.6 Mbps. It is expected that most UMTS operators will enhance their networks with HSDPA because like the upgrade from GPRS to EDGE, it is a relatively easy and inexpensive to upgrade to HSDPA. The first generation of HSDPA-capable devices is expected to become available in 2006.
Demonstrations of HSDPA are being featured by a number of leading companies at the CTIA Wireless 2005 show, March 14-16 in New Orleans including Ericsson, Lucent Technologies, Nokia, Nortel Networks, Siemens, and Anritsu Solutions.