By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
LAS VEGAS -The refocusing of CTIA's annual convention on RF/IP convergence couldn't have come at a better time.
Wireless 2001, scheduled here for March 20-22, will precede the expected late-year launch of 2.5G technologies by select carriers, including AT&T Wireless, Cingular, Sprint PCS, Verizon and VoiceStream. Show attendees are expected to see some of the first 2.5G phones using GPRS technology and possibly CDMA IX technology.
New 3G technologies, defined by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) as delivering peak data rates up to 2MBps in stationary mode, are expected to launch commercially starting in 2002 under the WCDMA and CDMA 1X EV banners. The most robust version of IX EV (EX DV) is expected to attain real-world throughputs exceeding 1MBps and raw data rates up to 5MBps. Motorola plans to demonstrate EV DV technology at the show.
Unlike most current wireless-data technologies, the 2.5 and 3G technologies deliver "always-on" digital packet-data connections, eliminating dial-up circuit-switched connections and thus eliminating a major source of battery drain. CDMA 1X technology also promises to double voice capacity over existing 2G CDMA technology.
Sensing the opportunity for high-speed data, ArrayComm will demonstrate its i-BURST data-only network technology, which will go into operation in a third-party market trial in San Diego and deliver a data rate of up to 1MBps. The technology could potentially deliver up to 40MBps. Sony is ArrayComm's largest investor.
2.5G phones: To seed the 2.5G handset market, Motorola is expected to show the Timeport 7389i, the company's second U.S.-destined GPRS-equipped phone. It will complement the Accompli 009, a clamshell pager-size triband GSM model equipped with a QWERTY keyboard and due in the United States late in the first quarter or early second quarter at a price that hasn't been released.
The triband-GSM 7389i is shaped more like a traditional wireless phone and was shown for the first time at CES. The Accompli was introduced at fall's PCIA show.
Offsite, U.K. start-up Sendo will show a triband GSM phone equipped with GPRS and Microsoft's Stinger smartphone OS.
For its part, Kyocera said it is developing CDMA 1X handsets but wouldn't display them at the show. Other companies declined to comment on their 2.5G plans for the show.
2G convergence: The 2G world, however, won't be left out of the RF/IP convergence trend.
Motorola plans to demonstrate the industry's first Java-based phone, an iDEN-network model.
Such phones would add computing applications to wireless devices and run applications that exchange data with client-server applications residing on corporate servers or on content-provider servers. These applications could be downloaded wirelessly to the portable devices from the server, and the applications could include games.
A similar Qualcomm-developed wireless-phone software platform called BREW (Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless) can run on 2G, 2.5G and 3G phones.
Qualcomm said it is working with handset manufacturers to offer BREW-enabled phones and BREW services, but it's not certain whether BREW phones and applications will be demonstrated at the show.
Qualcomm said Verizon Wireless has signed an agreement to support BREW and that BREW services are expected to be rolled out in the United States by the end of the year. One of the first applications will be a streaming music service available from MP3.com.
Samsung and Kyocera are likely to show previously introduced data-capable 2G CDMA smartphones based on the Palm OS. Samsung's model, shown at CES, will likely be available through Sprint PCS later this year. Kyocera's model is already available through Verizon at $499.
A GSM smartphone based on Microsoft's Stinger OS might put in appearance at Samsung's booth. It was previously reported that the phone would be a CDMA model.
Samsung's interest in GSM, as well as the entry by Sendo into the U.S. GSM market, reflect expected higher demand for GSM phones in this country now that AT&T Wireless announced plans to expand the footprint and capacity of its TDMA network by adding GSM base stations.
The base stations will be rolled out throughout the country in AT&T's unused 1.9GHz spectrum.
In other developments expected at the show:
LG InfoComm will talk up its branding plans, having focused on OEM sales until its name began appearing last year on a smartphone sold by Sprint PCS. It will also show its first triband CDMA phone, complementing a wide selection available from companies such as Audiovox and Kyocera.
Ericsson will likely show a Bluetooth headset awaiting FCC approval. It's due to retail on the company's website for $199 when packaged with a Bluetooth add-on module that fits three GSM phones: the T28w, T29z and A2218z.
The company's triband GSM R520, due in the second quarter, will feature built-in Bluetooth.
Emblaze will demonstrate technology that streams MPEG-4 full-motion video to wireless phones at up to 30 frames per second over 2.5G wireless networks. That frame rate requires a data rate of about 128 Kbps and throughput of 64 Kbps, the company said. The technology can also be implemented at lower frame rates in 2G networks.
The company envisions carriers operating audio/video servers that, among other things, would distribute live traffic camera scenes, security monitoring services, and video news clips.
MobileSpring will demonstrate infrastructure that carriers could deploy to let their subscribers send two-way SMS messages to subscribers of any other digital network, regardless of whether the other networks use GSM, TDMA or CDMA technology.
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.