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cdmaOne Evolution to Third Generation: Rapid, Cost-Effective Introduction of Advanced Services

By Perry M. LaForge,
Executive Director, CDMA Development Group


Third generation (3G) technology is a topic that has been in the industry headlines constantly in the past year. The issues surrounding 3G have been publicized in the media with the CDMA Development Group (CDG) highly visible in its efforts to resolve the compatibility issues between CDMA2000 and W-CDMA. The CDG's efforts on 3G have been much more than a public relations campaign, however, with the Advanced Systems and Evolution teams hard at work out of the public eye developing standards that provide for the timely and flexible implementation of 3G services for cdmaOne operators.

As part of the overall IMT-2000 effort, standards activities for CDMA2000 (the 3G version of cdmaOne) have been proceeding at a rapid pace to ensure that a flexible, cost-effective solution is in place for cdmaOne operators. Flexibility of deployment is an essential element of the CDG's 3G strategy together with preserving investment in existing systems and spectrum and offering the most technologically robust, advanced services to operators. These are the CDG priorities for developing CDMA2000 and accelerating it through the standards process. Focused on delivering maximum value to the operators and the consumer in a timeframe that meets existing and emerging market demands, this 3G strategy is resulting in near term solutions for cdmaOne advanced services without needing to acquire additional spectrum or invest in intrusive, expensive network or handset upgrades.

The 3G solutions for cdmaOne will build on its advanced data services that are unmatched by any other 2G digital technology. Operators today can deploy data rates up to 64 kilobits per second (kbps) with cdmaOne when using IS95B. Plans to introduce commercial services including Internet access at this speed by the end of this year have already been announced in Japan by DDI and IDO Corporations, and Korean operator KT Freetel is also building on its current data capabilities to introduce the higher speeds. QUALCOMM has shipped the high-speed packet data software solution for handsets that will facilitate the services planned in Japan and Korea. The solution provides wireless handset manufacturers and network operators with the ability to deliver high-speed internet access at speeds faster than those available in most homes today, up to 86.4 kbps. Network infrastructure to support the high-speed data services is being supplied in Japan by Motorola and in Korea by Samsung.

The introduction of these data services is an example of the graceful migration and market leading abilities that are inherent in the cdmaOne platform. Discussing the move to 64 kbps data services, Tadashi Onodera, executive vice president with DDI Corporation, noted, "With this achievement, our current cdmaOne system will be enabled for high-speed packet data by the end of this year in the current handset form factor, allowing us to provide an exclusive service [in the Japanese market] which will lead into IMT-2000."

Another recent example of leveraging today's cdmaOne platform to deliver the data services customers desire on the way to 3G services is Bell Mobility's recently announced series of initiatives that will provide its customers with instant access to wireless Internet, e-mail and e-commerce applications from their handsets. Bell Mobility unveiled two new services and launched two market trials for wireless on-line banking, real-time e-mail and web browsing in May.

The growing number of data service implementations demonstrates the increasing demand for access to information tools from wireless phones. One of the most often cited uses for 3G is the ability to support high-speed Internet access. To provide an incremental increase to the 64 kbps data rate supported by cdmaOne today without requiring operators to implement rates up to 2Mbps that are not yet needed, the CDG worked with the standards bodies to divide CDMA2000 into two phases. This strategy meets the operator requirements for flexible and cost-effective solutions paired with leading edge technology solutions. CDMA2000 phase1 is evolutionary from IS-95B, can be deployed in an existing cdmaOne channel and encompasses enhancements that include the following:

  • 1X and 3X 1.25 MHz channel support
  • 144 kbps packet data rates
  • 2X increase in voice capacity
  • 2X increase in standby time
  • Improved handoff

The standard for this phase of CDMA2000 has reached the final ballot phase within the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) TR45.5 sub-committee and manufacturers are already developing products to the specification. By introducing the 3G capabilities in a phased manner, cdmaOne operators will be able to maintain market leadership with the first available commercial 3G services. Only cdmaOne operators will be able to upgrade to 3G without acquiring additional spectrum, a key component to minimum time to market without additional, significant investment.

The design of CDMA2000 allows for deployment of the 3G enhancements while maintaining existing 2G support for cdmaOne in the spectrum an operator has today. Operators are presented with a number of options for using spectrum to combine cdmaOne and CDMA2000 on 1.25 MHz channels within 5MHz blocks of spectrum. Both CDMA2000 phase 1 and CDMA2000 phase 2 can be intermingled with cdmaOne to maximize the effective use of spectrum according to the needs of an individual operator's customer base. For example an operator that has a strong demand for high-speed data services may choose to deploy a combination of CDMA2000 phase 1 and cdmaOne that uses more channels for CDMA2000. In another market users may not be as quick to adopt high-speed data services and more channels will remain dedicated to cdmaOne services. As the CDMA2000 phase 2 capabilities become available, an operator has even more choices on how to use its spectrum to support the new services.

Flexibility for CDMA2000 extends to the spectrum bands that can be used for its deployment. As discussed, it is the only 3G technology that can be deployed by operators in all of today's cellular and PCS spectrum bands for mobile and fixed wireless systems. It is also compatible with IMT-2000 spectrum bands, so operators who do acquire new spectrum will be able to experience the benefits of CDMA2000 as well.

Operators around the world are announcing their plans to evolve their networks to the first phase of CDMA2000. Ease of migration and the cost-effective manner in which cdmaOne supports 3G services are continually cited by industry executives as advantages they are realizing from their cdmaOne investment. In November of 1998 Bell Atlantic Mobile announced that it will begin phased introduction of new high-speed wireless data capabilities over its existing cdmaOne network in 1999 based on CDMA2000 phase 1 enhancements provided by Lucent Technologies. The CDMA2000 solution takes advantage of the existing cdmaOne format and combines radio spectrum to create a larger "pipe" for voice and data transmissions allowing the 3G enhancements to co-exist with the current cdmaOne network. This 5 MHz multi-carrier scheme will allow simultaneous service to current customers, yet will cost-effectively support mobile data rates nearly eight times faster than today's modems. "Backward compatibility to existing cdmaOne is the linchpin for delivering these advanced services, and that's why we intend to deploy CDMA2000 capabilities in our network," Ted Hoffman, vice president technology development for Bell Atlantic Mobile said. "This phase of evolution will allow us to introduce 3G data rate services quickly and at minimal cost while substantially increasing our current digital voice capacity within our existing spectrum. This will give us the most competitive cost structures in the world for wireless services," Hoffman continued.

On the other side of the world from Bell Atlantic Mobile, Telstra announced in March of this year its plans for a showcase of innovative high-speed wireless Internet, multimedia and packet data services for Australia beginning in 2000. "Providing cost-effective, high-speed multimedia services to our customers is critical for the future," said Lindsay Yelland, group managing director, products and marketing, Telstra Corporation. "We are very excited to be able to trial next generation services on the same platform already being built using Nortel Networks CDMA technology." The Telstra trial will support data services at up to 144 kbps using the first phase of CDMA2000, providing Telstra's trial customers with access to a range of multimedia services including rapid wireless Internet connection.

As the deployment plans for CDMA2000 phase 1 are getting under way, the second phase of 3G technology on the CDMA2000 platform is being standardized and will evolve from the phase 1 capabilities to add features that include:

q Support for all channel sizes (6X, 9X, 12X)
q Full support for circuit and packet data services up to 2 megabits per second (Mbps)
q Advanced multi media call model
q Framework for advanced 3G voice services and vocoders including voice over packet and circuit switched data

Sprint PCS and Nortel Networks recently provided a glimpse of these future wireless services by demonstrating the high-speed data, voice and video applications of CDMA2000 phase 2. The demonstration included voice over IP (Internet Protocol), web browsing, data transfers and video conferencing at speeds up to 384 kbps, a six-fold increase in data rate from the 64 kbps available today.

The phased approach for 3G is delivering on the CDG's goal to maintain the technical superiority of cdmaOne while offering operators the most financially beneficial solutions to maintain their market leadership and continually evolve the service offerings they provide their customers. The fact that next year CDMA2000 phase 1 can be deployed in an existing cdmaOne channel by both cellular and PCS operators around the world is an incredible advantage. The increases in data rate, capacity and standby time will facilitate the migration to more advanced data services at a pace that makes sense with current market demand. The data market is certainly emerging, but operators do not yet need full blown 3G rates in excess of 300 kbps. The devices and applications requiring these types of rates are not going to be available in the next year or two, so it would be an excessive deployment, taking resources away from services on the 2G platform. With CDMA2000 phase1 the operators realize the best of both worlds: high-speed data services in line with the applications the consumer wants now in coexistence with the 2G network and a blueprint to add the faster data rates when the time is right.