Sprint has become the first US mobile operator to launch a ‘3G’ network nationwide, significantly increasing the bandwidth available for its customers. But while Sprint will benefit from the publicity and increased network capacity, it will find it hard to encourage either consumers or business customers to migrate to advanced mobile data services.
Sprint PCS has rolled out its CDMA2000 1X network across the US.
US wireless operator Sprint PCS has launched its broadband nationwide wireless network, based on Lucent’s CDMA2000 1X technology. Although the upgraded network will not offer the 2 Mbps of bandwidth misleadingly promoted for 3G, it significantly improves on Sprint’s existing CDMA network. Consumers can expect average speeds of 50-70 Kbps (roughly equivalent to 2.5G technologies such as GPRS), with a theoretical maximum of 144 Kbps.
The new network lets Sprint offer improved mobile data services with enhanced functionality. The technology, which uses spread spectrum, could allow the company to double its network capacity – timely, given that its 2G network is approaching saturation.
Sprint will target consumers with services such as MMS and web browsing, while targeting businesses with wireless email access and mobile applications (such as field service). Sprint hopes its national roll-out and focus on enterprise solutions will give it an advantage over the likes of Verizon Wireless, the other major CDMA-based US operator. Verizon launched its CDMA2000 1X network in January, though it has yet to roll this out nationwide.
The operator should indeed benefit from the publicity associated with offering a nationwide 3G service, and from the lead over Verizon, while the extra capacity is essential for its existing customers. However, the demand for mobile data services in the US is at best limited.
SMS is not the phenomenon that it is in Europe, leaving Americans with limited experience of mobile data services. A recent Datamonitor survey found that 60% of US mobile consumers interviewed showed no interest whatsoever in using multimedia messaging services. Meanwhile, the business arena is still focused on eBusiness, with a wait-and-see approach to 3G.
The bigger issue for Sprint, and the industry as a whole, is encouraging users to adopt these new mobile data services. Only then can they justify their significant investment in next generation wireless technology.
Related research: Datamonitor, US mobile devices: a land of opportunity (DMTC0785)
You can download a FREE telecoms report from www.dmfreereports.com