Nokia wants to build true packet-based data in its wireless networks and stark commercial realities mean that it needs to build them fast.
Earlier this month, the Finnish mobile phone giant said it had developed an IP packet data evolution of its terrestrial trunked radio (Tetra) product with Wap functionality. Tetra is a wireless standard developed primarily for the emergency services, public safety, transportation and utility companies.
The announcement comes in the wake of recent revelations that the BT-led Quadrant consortium, which won the licence to build the UK's Public Safety Radio Network, has so far failed to deliver the packet data technology that the emergency services were hoping for - at a cost of £2.5bn.
Kari Suneli, senior vice president for professional mobile radio at Nokia, said: "Packet data development has been driven by the emergency service need for secure, reliable and efficient data networks. Only packet data can deliver this."
Suneli claimed that 90 per cent of professional mobile users are planning to migrate to digital and that the Tetra market globally will grow to eight million users by 2005.
In the UK, Nokia will be working with Dolphin on its Tetra network. A spokesman for Dolphin said: "We have a point-to-point and point-to-multipoint SMS technology. However, many of our customers' long-term strategies would be to integrate their Tetra network into their core infrastructure and this can be done more easily with IP addressing."
Nokia announced its rollout of an all IP-core for third-generation (3G) mobile phone services, and said that its network will be the first to implement the new internet addressing protocol, IPv6.
The company also believes that the entire mobile phone network will be compelled to overlay its 3G network on top of traditional circuit-switched technology rather than true IP.
Nigel Deighton, a research director at analyst firm Gartner, said that this is because many 3G operators have to contend with the current two-generation legacy infrastructure, and it makes commercial sense in the short term to implement it in this way. The main advantage of IP architecture, is bandwidth management and Quality of Service.
A lack of IP addresses
Third-generation operators, who spent more than £22bn for their 3G licences, wanted to adopt the latest IP technology for their new networks, but were stymied by the Internet Engineering Task Force, which said that there were not enough addresses to go around.
Rene Svindson-Tune, senior vice president at Nokia, admitted that it would mean having to wait until the rollout of IPv6 at the end of 2001 before there are enough addresses. "All the 3G networks will be launched with inferior public-switched networks and it will be a while before they are transformed into an all-IP architecture," he said.
Nokia wants to be the first to implement an all-IP core product by 2002. The latest IP version, which is due to be implemented in late 2001, will solve the current shortage of IP addresses.
The phone company said that its IP core can be connected to the main radio and data network standard, and bring a secure end-to-end network for 3G mobile services.
Deighton said that it is "logical and reasonable" to want to move forward to IPv6 even before the technology can offer an all-IP architecture. "I don't blame them, because IPv6 potentially has got a huge amount of users, while IPv4 addresses are running out."
However, Deighton said that the delay in implementation of IPv6 is not necessarily a problem. "It's possible to work around the limited number of addresses, for instance by using Dynamic Host Control Protocol," he said. "The A and B addresses of IPv4 have all been used by now, but they could take the C addresses and turn them into domains. "It is true that IPv6 needs further development but, as it offers millions of addresses, it makes sense to implement it soon."
In the UK, Nokia, which had been an existing network supplier to BT's GSM network, recently lost out to Nortel, which will provide the infrastructure for BT's 3G network. Also, Vodafone named Ericsson as its key supplier for 3G network equipment.
Industry pundits are now looking to see whom Orange will choose to build its 3G network. Nokia currently supplies Orange's GSM network.
Few can question the merits of Nokia's wireless network products and their capabilities. However, it will have to remain on the ball in what will become an extremely competitive environment.
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