Super 3G: Competition for Mobile WiMax

3.5G or HSDPA was developed as an evolution of initial UMTS network to enhance the data throughput and provide a better data usage experience to users. 3GPP is considering another evolution step after HSxPA so-called 3GPP long-term evolution ‘3G LTE’ or as more commonly called 3.9G or ‘Super 3G’.

Super 3G is expected to be an evolved radio access technology that can provide equivalent or better service performance compared to current fixed line access technologies, and at much lower cost compared to current radio access technologies (e.g. HSDPA and HSUPA).

Deployment timeframe
The main focus of this evolution will be on enhancements for packet-based services over an all-IP core network. 3GPP aims to finalise the development of the standard in July 2007, with subsequent initial operator deployments in the 2009 – 2010 timeframe. Super 3G will be based on 3GPP Release 8 and will be built on already existing investment.

Super 3G aims
The main targets of Super 3G are:

  • Higher data rates than HSxPA: 100 Mbps for downlink, and 50 Mbps for uplink
  • Increased ‘cell edge’ bit rate whilst maintaining same site locations as deployed today
  • Improved spectral efficiency – three times more compared to current systems
  • Reduced network delay – below 10 ms
  • Spectrum flexibility – enabling deployment in different spectrum allocations
  • Reduced CAPEX and OPEX

To meet this challenge, a change in 3G radio technology is envisaged that integrates OFDM (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing) and MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output) technology within the current 3G investment. This is called HSOPA or High Speed OFDM Packet Access and was proposed initially by Nortel. HSOPA is considered necessary in order to achieve higher download data rates than 50 Mbps.

Impact on existing infrastructure
Super 3G will provide a smooth technological upgrade, using the existing WCDMA / HSxPA infrastructure, such that operators will not need to build a new network from scratch. However, how is it going to impact the HSxPA network? Is Super 3G a Mobile WiMAX killer?

The only thing that’s certain is that Super 3G will further increase the capacity and hence the throughput of current 3G networks. The transmission network will require serious upgrades to accommodate the increased capacity.

Mobile WiMAX and Super 3G
Mobile WIMAX (IEEE 802.16e) will compete head to head with Super 3G and the comparison between the two will be more fair since both of them share the same technologies e.g. OFDM, Hybrid ARQ, All-IP Architecture, Adaptive Modulation and coding.
The wireless leader will be the one not having necessarily the best radio technology but the best capacity and range of user devices. NTT DoCoMo is so far keeping a distance from Mobile WiMAX. Is that a strategy to protect their FOMA investment? It probably is. DoCoMo is pushing hard Super 3G as the main 3GPP standard for mobile broadband before the advent of 4G systems. On the other hand, Intel is aggressively promoting Mobile WiMAX and is starting integrating their Rosedale 2 chipset in some OEM laptops.

Time will show which technology will dominate at the end and how “Super” Super 3G is going to pan out.

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