But This One Goes To 3.5G!
By Mike Masnick, Tue Jul 27 21:00:00 GMT 2004

With 3G rollouts being announced every other week, it looks like the speculation game needs to move onto the next generation of cellular wireless technologies. Say hello to 3.5G.

Over the last five years, the practice of "3G spotting" (and, perhaps its sibling "the 3G death watch") has been popular among wireless industry insiders, as they either looked to spot any news of a 3G rollout or, alternatively, any indication that 3G might never arrive at all. However, with so many 3G systems up and running, the speculation apparently now needs to move forward a generation.

Just like the jump from 2G to 3G, many technology providers optimistically believe the move between 3G and 4G can be made in a single jump. However, as the embrace of 2.5G networks showed, a stepping stone tends to make a lot more sense, as it allows a continual upgrade path over a shorter time frame, and often at a lower overall cost. With that in mind, eyes are starting to turn to the set of 3.5G technologies that will soon replace the various 3G networks as speculative discussion points.

DoCoMo appears to be leading the way with its planned rollout of HSPDA technology sometime late next year, and it should be no surprise that AT&T Wireless announced plans to follow-up its own 3G launch by walking down the HSDPA upgrade path at some unknown point in the future. Meanwhile, the UMTS TDD technology is getting some attention in China, and already has a few small deployments in progress. Then, there's the Flash-OFDM trials (many of which have been high profile), which Motorola announced today that they're excited to support.

While it's good to see all these new technologies with higher speed data rates coming to market, the push from one to the next is making some wonder what the rush is all about. It is always a good idea to push the technology forward, but it often seems that this is coming at the expense of actually making the existing technology usable, and creating applications and services that really take advantage of the new offerings. One of the biggest hurdles in getting people to move to 3G offerings is that they don't see the benefit. In the console gaming world, companies know they need to launch new devices with compelling games that make it worthwhile for users to upgrade. In the wireless world, it seems that the focus is more on upgrading for the sake of upgrading, rather than teaming with developers to create those compelling applications and services that will drive usage.