More than 100 operators in 63 countries from all regions of the world are in various stages of readiness for EDGE high-speed wireless data technology to provide wireless customers with an array of next generation services and applications. Together, these 108 operators represent hundreds of millions of customers in their current subscriber base.
Chris Pearson, President of 3G Americas stated, "These operators have an EDGE on the wireless world by choosing to deploy third generation EDGE technology." He continued, "Operators' commitments to EDGE have steadily grown over the past 18 months and today there are 28 operators with live commercial mobile broadband networks including nationwide launches in the United States, Bermuda, Puerto Rico, the Cayman Islands, and Bahrain."
In addition to the 28 operators offering commercial 3G EDGE services to customers, there are 32 operators who are actively deploying EDGE, 33 planned EDGE deployments, 8 operators with EDGE-capable networks, and 7 other operators with EDGE networks reported in the trial phase.
Pearson added, "EDGE has achieved critical mass based on world geographic coverage, POPs, number of subscribers within these operators' networks, as well as the scope of devices and infrastructure. Considering the compatibility of EDGE devices with UMTS and GPRS, EDGE has immeasurable advantages building on the foundation of more than one billion plus customers in the GSM technology family."
In North America, AT&T Wireless was the first GSM operator to announce plans for EDGE deployment in November 2001 and today has the fastest nationwide wireless data service in the U.S. available to more than 220 million people and has commercially deployed EDGE in Bermuda, Cayman Islands and Puerto Rico. Cingular Wireless was first to commercially launch an EDGE network in June 2002 and plans for a nationwide U.S. EDGE rollout by September 2004. T-Mobile USA is the third nationwide operator in the U.S. planning to deploy EDGE. Rogers Wireless has launched EDGE in Canada.
EDGE networks offering commercial services in key markets of Latin America include CTI Movil (Argentina), Claro (Brazil), Telefonica Moviles (Chile and Mexico), and TIM Brazil. Throughout the western hemisphere, there are 46 operators in 26 countries who are in various stages of readiness to deploy EDGE.
As evidence that EDGE is not merely an Americas technology, EDGE has been commercially launched in four Asian countries, 10 countries in Europe and the Middle East, and even Algeria, Africa. TIM Italy was the first European operator to announce a complementary deployment strategy with EDGE and UMTS (WCDMA) and in May 2004 announced the commercial availability of its combined EDGE-UMTS network. TIM Italy cites the increased capacity derived by deploying EDGE as critical to their business plan. Globally, fifteen EDGE and UMTS complementary deployments have been announced to date including AT&T Wireless and Cingular.
With EDGE technology, multinational companies and business travelers can use a single device offering tri-band service while traveling internationally to many countries and receive either EDGE service where available or GPRS service for their data connections. EDGE customers can expect to receive average data speeds between 110-130 kbps, with bursts to 200 kbps, when using an EDGE modem card in a laptop, and several EDGE handsets are available that can also be used as modems for wireless connections.
This milestone of 100+ EDGE operators substantiates the statements made by EDGE proponents like 3G Americas that EDGE is not a technology limited to the Americas, but rather a global technology. EDGE, part of the GSM family of technologies, will be offered on every continent of the world by more than 100 operators. EDGE has global scope and scale as the technology is backward compatible with GPRS and will be interoperable with UMTS, the world's leading 3G technology choice.
According to the ARC Group report, Future Mobile Networks, "for many operators, upgrading to EDGE has proven too beneficial to ignore." Rupert Reid, Director of Research, ARC Group, states that, "In studying the world market for next generation wireless data services, our analysts were keen on EDGE technology beyond the Americas. EDGE offers multiple business case scenarios that all point in a favorable direction: technology benefits like increased capacity; operator benefits of 3G deployment in existing spectrum and with a relatively easy upgrade; and customer benefits of affordable quality wireless data services for a wide variety of applications and services with data speeds in the 100 plus Kbps sweet spot."
Reid added, "This is evidenced by the proliferation of EDGE network rollouts and EDGE-enabled infrastructure in the Americas, Asia, and European countries that is fuelling the momentum and uptake of EDGE on a global scale. In Europe and several developed countries, operators are looking to use EDGE along side UMTS networks using an approach of islands of UMTS in urban areas and seas of EDGE in other areas."
What are the advantages of EDGE?
- Ease of deployment - EDGE can be rolled-out at a low incremental cost for GSM operators because it often requires just a simple upgrade of software and additional channel cards for the existing GSM/GPRS network infrastructure that is EDGE-enabled. This design makes EDGE a cost-effective way for operators to extend coverage beyond cities to suburbs and other areas, as well as expand their service portfolios and price these services competitively.
- Spectrum utilization - EDGE also cost-effectively allows operators to offer next generation advanced data services within their existing spectrum without the purchase of additional spectrum. EDGE is as spectrally efficient as other competing 3G technologies and is available in four major international wireless spectrum bands -- 850, 900, 1800 and 1900 MHz. Operators benefit from better spectrum utilization efficiency and higher data transmission speeds.
- High-speed packet-data - With an average data throughput of 110-130 Kbps and theoretical peak throughput of 473 Kbps, EDGE delivers high-speed packet-data supporting a wide variety of next generation data applications and services, including text and multimedia messaging, streaming audio and video, Internet access, and large file downloads.
- Compatibility and coverage - EDGE enhances GPRS and is backwards compatible with GSM/GPRS. EDGE will therefore build upon the tremendous global footprint of GSM, the wireless technology used by more than one billion customers. Additionally, EDGE can be deployed independently or in tandem with UMTS.
- Industry support - In addition to the global GSM footprint, there is the already established community of vendors and application providers for the GSM community that support the EDGE wireless ecosystem providing significant economies of scale. It is an incremental cost for manufactures to incorporate EDGE radio technology in their devices. 3G Americas along with other global organizations endorsing EDGE include ETSI, the GSM Association, 3GPP, and the GSA.
Leslie Arathoon, Director of the Americas Group for Pyramid Research commented, "EDGE is already in service in Argentina, Barbados, Bermuda, Brazil, the Cayman Islands, Chile and Mexico and is being deployed in Ecuador. With more Latin American operators in the process of rolling out new GSM networks, it is relatively easy to activate the EDGE capabilities on their already EDGE-enabled GSM infrastructure. Timing wise, this will depend on the market's readiness for increased throughput, capacity, enhanced services and applications that require higher data speeds and the availability of terminal equipment. When the market is ready, we can expect EDGE to be deployed in more cities across the Latin America region as operators seek to increase ARPS (Average Revenue Per Subscriber) in the region."