Lucent Technologies is pushing GSM upgrade technology as a bridge between existing and much vaunted third-generation mobile networks.
GSM (Global System for Mobile) communications is limited by its inability to support high-bandwidth data. However, the emerging General Packet Radio System (GPRS) is regarded as an interim fix because it lets operators increase bandwidth so they can introduce a whole raft of new broadband services.
Lucent's PacketGSM product will allow operators to upgrade their networks to GPRS, paving the way for voice, video, fax and data services, according to Lucent.
Mike Short, chairman of the Mobile Data Association and director of international affairs at Cellnet, said PacketGSM was "a stepping stone" in the mobile market, creating a bridge between current technology and third-generation (3G) devices, which are expected to arrive in 2002.
Manufacturers and operators are concerned that consumer demand for 3G services will not justify the huge infrastructure investment required to implement them, but PacketGSM would spark interest in the market's potential, according to Dataquest senior analyst Dirk Bout.
"For advanced operations, there will still need to be a high-bandwidth service, but at the moment the demand is not there," he said.
Bout said, until the arrival of full-scale 3G technology, "there is a window of opportunity for other solutions. Lucent will have to make sure that the migration to 3G services is taken care of, however."
Some analysts believe that the arrival of PacketGSM will push 3G investment back - a perception dismissed by Short: "Lucent's PacketGSM is an innovation, but it won't necessarily undermine 3G technologies, which will still offer more capacity for high-data content."
A spokesman for Symbian, the wireless group developing and licensing the Epoc mobile operating system, said PacketGSM developments were not a threat. "Investment in next-generation mobile services is not threatened.
Our Epoc technology will be incoporated in both second and third generation services," he said.
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