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New Wireless-Data Formats Debut At CTIA

Orlando, Fla. — What’s next for CDMA carriers after launching CDMA 1x EV-DO Rev. A and for GSM carriers after launching HSPA (high-speed packet access)?

Besides Mobile WiMAX, which Sprint intends to launch in select markets by year’s end, the other options for accelerating high-speed data services — and delivering wireless VoIP service — are UMB (Ultra Mobile Broadband) and LTE (Long-Term Evolution).

Both were demonstrated by multiple infrastructure vendors at the CTIA show.

UMB is the evolutionary path that CDMA 1x EV-DO Rev. A carriers will take, and it promises download speeds up to 291Mbps depending on implementation. LTE is the path that GSM/W-CDMA carriers will take. Both technologies were demonstrated at the show, but equipment using either technology isn’t expected to be commercially available until 2009 or 2010.

Sprint Nextel, in the meantime, reiterated plans for a commercial launch of Mobile WiMAX service in select cities by year’s end. The technology, which was also demonstrated by infrastructure suppliers, promises 2Mbps to 4Mbps download speeds when Sprint launches it in the 2.5GHz band. The carrier said it will eventually accelerate speeds to 10Mbps.

AT&T/Cingular, meantime, said LTE is years out in its plans, in part because the standard hasn’t been finalized and because senior VP Kris Rinne said the carrier has “a lot of room to expand” with HSPA.

HSPA is the name for the dual implementations of HSDPA and HSUPA (high speed uplink packet access), which accelerates uplink speeds from the handset to an expected average throughput of 600kbps.

GSM/W-CDMA carriers could eventually evolve their HSPA networks to HSPA+ to provide peak download datarates up to 28Mbps and peak uplink speeds to 11Mbps.

For its part, Qualcomm went to the CTIA show to announce a roadmap for its first UMB chip, which will deliver peak data downloads of 40Mbps and peak data uploads of 10Mbps. Qualcomm demonstrated the technology in fixed mode at the show and promised fully mobile demos in June.

Qualcomm also promised to deliver UMB silicon for handsets and base stations in mid-2008, expects commercial trials at the end of 2008, and projects early market trials in early 2009.

Qualcomm spoke of embedding wireless UMB chips in everyday consumer electronics devices — including portable media players (PMPs), handheld game machines, digital cameras and digital camcorders. Sprint talked of embedding Mobile WiMAX chips in CE devices.