MTN has taken the lead in the mobile broadband arena by announcing that its 3.6 Mbps HSDPA service is officially available at selected locations in metropolitan areas.
Users who connect to the MTN HSDPA network in 3.6 Mbps enabled areas will currently automatically receive the higher speeds at no extra charge. They will also not be required to subscribe for an upgrade.
The mobile provider has already upgraded many sites on its current HSDPA network to provide downlink speeds of up to 3.6 Mbps – but to ensure quality of service and sustained throughput, only towers with adequate backhaul bandwidth are going live with the service.
The company’s transmission network is currently provided by Telkom, and delays in transmission links and backhaul bandwidth were previously blamed for the delay in the launch of 3.6 Mbps HSDPA by both Vodacom and MTN.
Brian Seligmann, MTN’s senior manager of data bearers, said that current testing on the 3.6 Mbps network showed peak speeds of around 3.4 Mbps and a sustained throughput of 2.4 Mbps.
Seligmann says that they have received the necessary funding and support from MTN for an upgrade of the full HSDPA network to 3.6 Mbps. This project will stretch through most of 2008, with high-density areas in cities targeted first.
MTN has also made funds available to significantly expand their current 3G/HSDPA footprint in smaller towns, and they will also create new HSDPA sites in metropolitan areas to improve their current coverage and ensure high service levels.
MTN said that the tariffs for the new 3.6 Mbps service will initially be the same as for 1.8 Mbps HSDPA, but that this is a promotional period and that new tariffs will be announced within the next three months.
More Exciting News
Even more exciting news for high-end broadband users is that MTN has already gone live on some sites in Cape Town with its 7.2 Mbps HSDPA service with many more areas to follow.
Seligmann said that the company is planning to upgrade a significant number of their HSDPA sites to 7.2 Mbps, but as is the case with the company’s current 3.6 Mbps HSDPA rollout, the additional 7.2 Mbps sites will only go live when adequate transmission capacity is available to support the high speeds.
To boost current uplink speeds, MTN is also upgrading its full 3G network to support HSUPA which will offer uplink speeds of up to 1.4 Mbps.
Seligmann said that early testing showed actual uplink speeds of around 1.1 Mbps on the newly upgraded HSUPA sites.
The higher uplink speeds will be particularly suitable for corporate clients, who need a more symmetrical service, and the online gaming community which can take advantage of the lower latency associated with HSUPA.
As is the case with 3.6 Mbps and 7.2 Mbps HSDPA, the new HSUPA service is also already available at selected sites.
MTN’s rollout of 3.6 Mbps and 7.2 Mbps HSDPA and 1.4 Mbps HSUPA services means that the service provider is now at the forefront of mobile broadband technology, which raises the question regarding end user device support for these higher speeds.
Good news for current Huawei E220 users is that the device is already 3.6 Mbps enabled and that only a firmware upgrade is necessary to upgrade the device and take advantage of the new 7.2 Mbps service. MTN said that the new firmware will be available free of charge on the MTN website within the next month.
Many of the latest mobile phones – including the Nokia N95, Nokia 6110 and HTC TyTN II – support HSDPA speeds of up to 3.6 Mbps which means that these users will automatically enjoy the higher speeds at upgraded sites.
To take advantage of 7.2 Mbps HSDPA and specifically HSUPA new equipment may however be needed. The Huawei E270 data card is one example of a device that supports downlink speeds of up to 7.2 Mbps and upload speeds of up to 2 Mbps.
MTN investing heavily in broadband
Seligmann said that MTN South Africa’s Managing Director – Tim Lowry – has brought new inspiration to the company and he is very serious about its broadband initiatives.
“Broadband is a very viable and attractive business for MTN, and we are serious about being the best broadband provider in South Africa,” said Seligmann.
Seligmann pointed out that there is a very strong focus from Lowry on network performance – something which is prevalent in the company’s drive to upgrade transmission capacity and ensure high sustained throughput.
Seligmann further highlighted that MTN is investing heavily in their South African infrastructure and services, and added that they have the necessary support and funding to be the leaders in the local broadband market.