Boosted Bandwidth in the Offing for More Smartphones

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A growing number of smartphones come equipped with support for both higher download and upload speeds.

The T-Mobile G1, Research In Motion's BlackBerry Storm and the Sony Ericsson Xperia X1 all come with support for HSDPA (High Speed Downlink Packet Access) at 7.2M bps (bits per second), as well as HSUPA (High Speed Uplink Packet Access) at 2M bps.

"By the end of this year a good proportion of mid- and high-tier products are certainly going to be 7.2M bps. At the moment there is a small percentage that are supporting HSUPA, largely given to the fact that there aren't that many operators who yet have activated HSUPA in their network," said Geoff Blaber, analyst at CCS Insight.

How aggressively the handset manufacturers are going to add support for HSUPA will be dictated by the operators. Chances are a good proportion of high-tier products, at least, will move to support it during next year, according to Blaber.

Users who just send e-mails with their BlackBerry devices won't see much of a difference. Streaming video and downloading content on the move are the kinds of applications that warrant higher speeds. Bloggers who want to upload pictures and files to Web pages will also be able to take advantage of the improvements in bandwidth, according to Blaber.

"We are at a time now when the applications and the requirements are there for that extra capacity. I would argue that when 3G first came out it was a technology without a clear requirement from the users," said Blaber.

Samsung, which has been an early adopter of mobile broadband, also sees blogging and social networking as applications that will benefit faster phones. "The more bandwidth you get, the more convenient it will be to use that in the mobile phone," said Erik Johannesson, Nordic PR manager at Samsung.

Samsung has announced the W600, which supports the next step, HSUPA at 5.76M bps, for the Korean market.

But not all manufacturers are onboard -- Apple and Nokia are still on the fence.

"We will have plenty of phones that support HSUPA," said Antti Vasara, senior vice president, productization devices, at Nokia R&D.

Phones that support HSDPA at 7.2M bps are also on the way, according to Vasara.

But he doesn't want to reveal any details. "It's always about getting the timing right. It's bad if you're too early, and it's of course bad if you're too late," said Vasara, who thinks that users will see the biggest difference when watching videos.

Apple doesn't want to talk about future plans, according to spokesman Alan Hely.

So far about 40 operators worldwide have HSUPA, HSDPA at 7.2M bps or both in service, compared to about 200 commercial HSPA networks, according to figures from the GSM Association.

As speeds and data usage continue to increase network divisions at operators will be kept busy. Because if users are to take advantage of the higher speeds the network, especially the data links to and from base stations, will have to keep up.

"That is certainly the biggest concern," said Blaber.

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