News, views and contacts from the global Mobile Communications industry
 

Ålands Mobiltelefon W-CDMA Network, Finland




Key Data


On the first day of 2002 Ericsson and the Finnish operator Ålands Mobiltelefon AB (ÅMT) launched a 3G service on the island of Åland in Finland. The contract includes a mobile network solution integrating GSM and 3G that will cover the island of Åland along with its 26,000 inhabitants. Ericsson was chosen by (ÅMT as the sole supplier of the 3G system, which calls for the supply of a fully integrated solution for the 3G system and a GSM system, including a general packet radio service (GPRS) system that went live in May 2001.

System integration of the network is based on W-CDMA technology. The universal mobile telecommunications system (UMTS), is the European denomination for 3G, and will be further rolled out over the coming years. Finland was the first country in the world to issue 3G licenses, which took place in March 1999 and Åland Mobiltelfon AB is the fourth operator to select Ericsson's 3G W-CDMA system. Ericsson recently announced it had won the first ever agreement for a commercial end-to-end 3G system, when Finnish 2G Ltd selected them as the main supplier of a nationwide mobile network, integrating GSM and 3G.

W-CDMA

Wideband code division multiple access (W-CDMA) is one of the third-generation radio interface technologies that has been optimised for wide-band radio access, to support high-speed multimedia services such as video conferencing and the internet, as well as voice calls. W-CDMA allows the wireless bandwidth to be tailored to the needs of each individual call, whether it is in a voice, data or multimedia format and it can handle both packet and circuit-switched services. Multiple calls of different types can be simultaneously made.

In January 1998, W-CDMA was the radio access technology selected by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ESTI) for wide-band radio access and to support third-generation multimedia services. Optimised to allow very-high-speed multimedia services such as voice, internet access and video conferencing, the technology will provide access speeds of up to 2Mbps in the local area and 384Kbps for wide-area access with full mobility. These higher data rates require a wider radio-frequency band, which is why W-CDMA with a 5MHz carrier has been selected, compared with the 200kHz carrier for narrow-band GSM.

W-CDMA can be added to an existing GSM core network. This will be particularly beneficial when large portions of a new spectrum are made available, for example in the newly paired 2GHz bands in Europe and Asia. It will also minimise the investment required for a W-CDMA roll-out, as existing GSM sites and equipment will be reused to a large extent.

In May 1999, an agreement on a globally harmonised third-generation CDMA radio standard that addresses the needs of all current wireless communities was reached by the Operators' Harmonisation Group. There will be three modes in the harmonised 3G CDMA standard: a direct-sequence mode for W-CDMA, a multi-carrier mode for CDMA2000 (an evolution of narrow band CDMA), and a time division duplex (TDD) CDMA mode.

UMTS

To date, the main driver for mobile communications has been voice telephony. However, the introduction of new high-speed data capabilities, (including GPRS and EDGE) and the evolution to UMTS, will give new and existing GSM operators the potential for a whole range of mobile multimedia services. These will include electronic postcards, web surfing, access to corporate LANs and intranets and email from a mobile terminal.

UMTS is the standard for delivering 3G services developed under the auspices of ETSI. It builds on the world's most widely deployed mobile technology - GSM - and offers the prospect of a global wireless standard for personal multimedia communications.

GPRS AND EDGE

The global (GPRS) market has now taken off. The introduction of GPRS was one of the key steps in the evolution of GSM networks to 3G. GSM operators around the world are upgrading their networks to launch commercial GPRS services.

The growth of data traffic in the demand for internet access and services has paralleled the explosion in the demand for mobile communications. With the capability to charge per data bit sent and received, customers will only have to pay for usage. GPRS will offer a tenfold increase in data throughput rates, from 9.6Kbps to 115Kbps. Using a packet data service, subscribers are always connected and always online, so services will be easy and quick to access.

The next stepping stone towards 3G will be the implementation of enhanced data rates for global evolution (EDGE), offering data services and applications at speeds of up to 384Kbps, essentially using existing infrastructure. EDGE will allow GSM operators to use existing GSM radio bands to offer wireless multimedia IP-based services and applications. EDGE will also allow the advantages of GPRS to be fully explored, with a faster connection set-up and a higher bandwidth than traditional GSM. The combination of GPRS and EDGE will also result in much improved utilisation of the radio network.

GPRS and EDGE.
Third-generation (3G) technology.