Singapore, 8 October 2002 - StarHub has been closely monitoring the development of 3G mobile markets and 3G technologies worldwide. It is our belief that Singapore will benefit most by having mobile operators here taking a more evolutionary path towards 3G. This evolutionary path of implementing 3G mobile network infrastructure will ensure that services are delivered when desired by consumers, and at prices that are affordable. Currently, all three mobile operators in Singapore are required to construct a nationwide 3G network in the newly allocated 3G spectrum bands, using WCDMA technology, at an aggregate cost of over S$ 1 billion in the next 24 months.
"Frankly, consumers do not care what we use for our infrastructure technology. It is the availability and price of data enabled handsets, useful applications, and premium content that will drive consumer demand, whatever underlying technology is used to provide it," said Mr Terry Clontz, President & CEO of StarHub. "Our customers do want new services like picture messaging, mobile e-mail, and downloadable games on reasonably priced and fashionable handsets. Mobile operators must focus on the fastest and most economical way to deliver these services. That is exactly why StarHub is looking at a more evolutionary step in building out its 3G network."
Optimism for the Future
StarHub’s view of the future for mobile data remains optimistic. StarHub believes that the existing GPRS network technology, which already allows consumers to sample certain 3G-type services like MMS, can be enhanced within the next year to deliver more than enough speed and capacity to handle near term demand for any of the 3G-type services. The technology used to boost GPRS is called EDGE, which stands for Enhanced Data rate for GSM Evolution. In fact, EDGE may satisfy most of StarHub’s mobile data demand for up to four years, maybe more. However, if demand accelerates, then WCDMA technology can be introduced to the network as and when it’s needed to handle increasing capacity and throughput requirements. EDGE leverages much of the existing investment in GSM; it operates at up to 3 times the data speed of GPRS; and it is a natural evolutionary step to WCDMA.
StarHub intends to trial EDGE early next year. Most handset vendors expect to have a broad range of EDGE compatible handsets commercially launched by third quarter next year. One feature of the new GSM/EDGE handsets is they will be backward compatible with existing GSM systems.
StarHub has been working with Nokia in evaluating this evolutionary path to 3G. "Nokia sees EDGE and WCDMA as complementary technologies, targeted to different frequency allocations. EDGE will enhance GSM/GPRS capacity cost-efficiently, and based on a global standard. Nokia is well prepared to support EDGE deployments in all frequencies, and we have already started worldwide volume deliveries of EDGE capable hardware. As the amount of traffic grows, WCDMA is the most cost effective technology to deliver the required capacity for the new services," said Mr James Lin, Vice President & General Manager, Business Development, Nokia Networks.
EDGE is a technology that is also being launched in the USA. StarHub believes that other mobile operators in Europe, and in Asia-Pacific, will likely launch EDGE as an evolutionary step to WCDMA.
Since IDA awarded the 3G spectrum over two years ago to all three mobile operators, there have been seismic changes in the technology, the market, the industry, and the economy. It is these changes that have caused StarHub to consider this evolutionary approach to be more practical. StarHub has written to the IDA to formally request that the 31 December 2004 requirement to complete the nationwide rollout in the new spectrum blocks be abolished. Added Mr Clontz, "In order to make EDGE a reality in Singapore, IDA will need to relax the current obligations regarding 3G spectrum use. We have asked IDA to allow mobile operators to choose their own 3G network technology roadmaps and rollout schedules."
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