White Paper: From here to 3G: An Introduction to third generation mobile services

Mobile telephony allowed us to talk on the move. The Internet turned raw data into helpful services that were easy to use. Now,...

Mobile telephony allowed us to talk on the move. The Internet turned raw data into helpful services that were easy to use. Now, these two technologies are converging to create third generation mobile services

What will it mean?

Let's look first at what 3G services will mean for users.

With access to any service, anywhere, anytime, from one terminal, the old boundaries between communication, information, media and entertainment will disappear. Services will truly be converged.

"Mobility" will be built into many services that we currently regard as "fixed" - indeed, mobility will become the norm for many communication services. We'll be able to make video calls to the office and surf the Net simultaneously, or play interactive games with friends at home - wherever we may be.

But 3G is not just about applications that require high data rates. It's also about convenience and speed of access.

The packet-based IP (Internet Protocol) technology that will form the core of future services will mean we can be online constantly: e-mail messages with file attachments will download to hand-held terminals instantaneously; at the push of a button we'll be connected to our company network.

We'll have this "anytime access" without paying a penny until we actually use network resources to send or receive.

There will also be a growing need for mobile users to interact with machines, and for machines to interact with other machines, over radio connections - reporting faults, ordering new stock, or relaying location details whenever required. Companies outside telecoms today will be taking advantage of 3G to develop innovative new services.

What is 3G?

A new radio communications technology that will create a "bit pipe" for providing mobile access to Internet-based services. It will enhance and extend mobility in many areas of our lives.

In the near future, mobility won't be an add-on: it will become a fundamental aspect of many services. We'll expect high-speed access to the Internet, entertainment, information and electronic commerce (e-commerce) services wherever we are - not just at our desktop computers, home PCs or television sets.

Business users

3G services will add an invaluable mobile dimension to services that are already becoming an integral part of modern business life: Internet and intranet access, video-conferencing, and interactive application sharing.

We are not just talking about "road warriors" who spend their entire working lives travelling. It's more a question of supporting new, flexible working practices where employees need access to a wide range of information and services via their corporate intranets, whether they are at their own desk or anywhere else.

Employees who spend some of their time working at home. Accountants that carry out audits at client premises. On-site maintenance engineers who need access to detailed instruction manuals. These are all situations where 3G services will play a valuable role.

General consumers

We're likely to see 3G services enter our day-to-day lives in all sorts of new ways: for example, in shopping, especially Internet "mail order" (e-commerce), banking, or playing interactive computer games over the Net.

We'll think nothing of sitting on a train and using a mobile palmtop with Internet browsers to log into our bank accounts. While online we'll be able to check our accounts, pay a few bills and click on a screen icon to immediately set up a video-conference to discuss our account with a bank clerk.

On vacation, we'll be able to use our mobile palmtops to obtain local tour guides, make a last-minute reservation at a hotel, find and call the nearest taxi firm, and send video postcards. We'll expect location-independent mobile access to a personalised set of services that matches the way we live and work.

Machine-to-machine communications

Increasingly, machine-to-machine communications will also be enabled and enhanced with future mobile network technology. Domestic appliances will have built-in radio modems to provide remote control and diagnostics. Our refrigerators might have built-in sensors that will detect which items need restocking - because they have passed their use-by date or run out - and automatically send a reminder message to our Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs). We could even get the refrigerator to send an order direct to our local store. Likewise, vending machines will be able to tell the warehouse when they need restocking.

What's driving the development of 3G services?

The parallel, rapid growth in mobile and Internet-based services - the benefits of combining the two in intelligent ways are enormous.

The background to this paradigm shift in the way we communicate at work, rest and play is the rapid parallel growth in mobile services and the Internet.

The mobile phone is the fastest-selling communication device of all time. By 2005, there will be one billion mobile users around the world - which probably accounts for half the population of the telecoms-deregulated world.

The quality and variety of mobile communication services on offer and the performance of mobile terminals are improving all the time. But we're still using mobile phones primarily for talking. This is about to change.

The other expanding area of technology is the Internet. IP based services already account for well over half the traffic in "backbone" telecom networks. In future, most communications and information services will be developed in the IP environment.

There is tremendous synergy between the IP world and mobile communications, and they are converging. Indeed, most of the forecast one billion mobile users in 2005 will also be Internet subscribers. By then, the difference between the two services may already have evaporated due to convergence.

Current mobile networks were originally designed for narrowband voice and data traffic. These networks will now evolve to wideband capabilities, allowing sufficient data rates for all mobile multimedia and mobile Internet-based services of the future.

At the same time, completely new and innovative services that require high-speed data transmission will come to the market.

What will 3G add?

Fast, user-friendly, service-oriented ways to access information, applications and services while on the move.

From a service perspective, 3G mobile technology will add two things. First, mobile services will be delivered with better performance and greater cost-effectiveness.

Second, 3G services will go on to facilitate new services with more comprehensive content. For instance, mobile multimedia messages will become more common as an improvement on traditional, text-based emails.

User access of up to 2Mbit/s will be provided - at least 40 times higher than available until recently. This high throughput will allow services such as high-quality video to be transmitted over the air.

The packet-switching core network will give users the feeling of being permanently connected to the services they are using, yet they will be charged on the basis of the amount of information sent and received, rather than on today's basis of connection duration.

With 3G, multiple connections can be set up simultaneously from the same mobile terminal. So, for example, a user could connect to a remote database to retrieve information without interrupting a videoconference session.

What will 3G services terminals be like?

There will be a wide range, from simple single-application devices such as voice-only phones, to multi-purpose communicators capable of handling several voice, data and video services in parallel.

To date, the "terminal" for accessing mobile services has been the mobile phone. With the coming of 3G services, we can expect to see a broadening of this concept to include a whole host of new terminals. These will be both general-purpose computing and communications devices, and devices with more specific purposes to serve particular market segments.

From phones to multi-functional devices

There will still be recognisable mobile phones. But many of these will have larger screens to display Internet pages or the face of the person being spoken to. There will be smaller "smart-phones" with limited web browsing and email capabilities.

The addition of mobile communications capabilities to laptop and palmtop computers will speed up the convergence of communications and computing, and bring to portable computing all the functions and features available on the most powerful desktop computers.

There will be videophones, wrist communicators, palmtop computers, and radio modem cards for portable computers. Innovative new voice-based interfaces will allow people to control their mobile communication services with voice commands.

We will also see the integration of 3G services into a very wide range of devices and products other than user terminals. For example, the "telephone-on-a-card" will allow mobile services to be built into business equipment, vehicles and household appliances, for dedicated applications.

Devices such as phones, computers and digital cameras will also be able to communicate with each other using short-range radio. Digital cameras will be able to use wide-area radio communications in real time and reduce the need for bulky memory and other components.

Work is already well under way to define standardised, user-friendly protocols and platforms for next-generation terminals.

How will user terminals develop?

In a variety of ways. We are likely to see a range of multi-purpose communicators as well as highly-targeted devices.

We'll see an array of new terminals arriving on the market over the next few years to allow users to make the most of 3G services. These will range from sophisticated multi-purpose, multimedia terminals to simple, application-specific devices designed to meet the needs of particular market segments. Here are some new and recent developments in mobile phone technology that are beginning to shape the 3G services devices of the future.

( Bluetooth

Bluetooth is an initiative among telecoms equipment, computer and chip manufacturers to develop a two-way digital radio standard for short-range connections between different devices, in an office or home environment. It will do away with obtrusive cords between mobile phones, palmtops and portable PCs.

For instance, a "photograph" taken on a Bluetooth-enabled digital camera could be transmitted to any nearby Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone, from which it could be sent anywhere in the world over the mobile network.

Bluetooth presents substantial opportunities for the development of innovative service concepts, not least in vertical market applications and machine-machine communications.

The key to Bluetooth is the concept that different devices recognise each other and then initiate the high-level functions of the specific device - these functions will be implemented using application-specific software.

( Symbian

Symbian is an independent joint venture company established in June 1998 by Ericsson, Nokia and Psion; Motorola joined Symbian in October 1998.

This partnership will drive the development of the EPOC operating system optimised for mobile multimedia communications. Its aim is to set the standard for mobile operating systems and to enable a mass market for "mobile information devices" - the next generation of palmtop computers, PDAs, smartphones and communicators.

Symbian is focusing on two key areas: development of best-in-class core software, user interfaces, application frameworks and development tools for mobile information devices; and the promotion of standards for the interoperability of these devices with mobile networks, content services, messaging and enterprise-wide solutions.

( Wireless Application Protocol

Wireless Application Protocol is a new global, open standard protocol for hand-held devices that will allow users to access online services without having to plug in a laptop computer.

With WAP-enabled terminals, many data applications will be accessible from the terminal itself, using a built-in browser.

WAP will work across many mobile network technologies, and is intended to attract new subscribers and open up the mass market for mobile data services.

Who will buy 3G services?

Initially, the typical "early adopter" business user. But 3G applications will be widespread and they will have mass-market appeal.

The early adopters of 3G services are likely to be organisations that wish to give staff full access to corporate intranets whether they are at their own desks or anywhere else.

The rapid and continuous proliferation of mobile IP-based communications systems, together with Internet and intranet installations, will create a powerful enabler for a multitude of new applications.

The move to packet switching will change the way we view mobile networks. It will open the door to applications for which today's mobile networks have limitations. For example, with packet switching it will be feasible to connect remote surveillance cameras to a monitoring centre via a mobile network. As long as the video image stays constant, no data need be transmitted, and therefore no call costs are incurred. The instant the image changes, the changing image is transmitted.

Packet switching also makes mobile networks highly suitable for users of palmtop computers. Data can be sent and received instantly, since users are always connected.

Who will be involved in 3G service development?

As well as telecoms and Internet service suppliers, there will be a whole variety of players involved in 3G services from the computing/IT, media, entertainment, banking and retail sectors.

The trend in mobile services - as in today's fixed networks - is towards content-rich services that can be developed using defined and specified network capabilities.

For many new services, "mobility" will be both the cause and the effect - adding the value of "mobile freedom" to previously fixed services (wireless e-commerce, Internet access, corporate connectivity), and being the driver for new services that users and applications will demand because they are mobile (location-based information, in-vehicle entertainment, tracking, route planning and diagnostics.)

So 3G service developments - in the broadest sense - are coming not only from mobile network operators, but from ISPs, IT hardware and software vendors, retailers, banking and finance firms, transportation companies ... the list really is endless.

A network of new partnerships is being formed between content providers, terminal and application developers, media organisations and network operators. In other words, we are witnessing the convergence that people keep talking about.

Compiled by John Sabine

(c) 1999 Ericsson

Read more on Mobile hardware

Start the conversation

Send me notifications when other members comment.

Please create a username to comment.

-ADS BY GOOGLE

SearchCIO

SearchSecurity

SearchNetworking

SearchDataCenter

SearchDataManagement

Close