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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Whatever happened to HSUPA?

It seems to me that in the rush to deploy and enhance HSDPA services, scaling downloads speeds from 3.6 to 7.2 to 14.4 and onwards, most operators have put their plans for high-speed uploads, through HSUPA, on the backburner.

According to the GSA (Global Mobile Suppliers Association) and also GSMA, we're on about 28 network launches, with another 24 in the works. There's a good table here. And there are now about 30 devices (the GSA says 33, GSMA says 26).

Sounds promising on the face of it, but it seems to be a much slower ramp-up compared with HSDPA, and certainly slower than the migration to higher speeds within HSDPA. And it's also worth noting that the vast majority of devices are still laptop data cards/dongles and fixed modems. In terms of phones, there's just a handful on DoCoMo's network in Japan, and a couple of HTC and i-Mate high-end PDA-type devices. It was conspicuous that none of the major handset vendors at 3GSM last month were talking up 'full HSPA' in their devices.

I think the problem is that nobody really knows what the added-value of HSUPA is. Just as most consumers don't really scrutinise upstream bandwidth for home DSL/cable, there doesn't appear to be an immediate need for symmetry on mobile either.

Yes, I know about user-generated content - but to be honest, just how many MB of video can any average person upload per month? Otherwise, yes, I can see the benefit for low-latency gaming (HSUPA improves ping time as well as bandwidth). And yes, professional photographers would like to send their 10-megapixel images to the newsdesk or a media agency. But ironically, most of the other HSUPA applications are probably "naughty" ones that the operators don't really want to encourage - VoIP, P2P, TV place-shifting (SlingBox et al), and people illicitly using their wireless endpoint as a web server.

And given that HSDPA is selling like hotcakes at the moment..... why move to HSUPA before it's really needed, given that the proposition is much less clear?


Anonymous said...

but to be honest, just how many MB of video can any average person upload per month?

- you'd be surprised, especially with mobile YouTube integration.

Also, don't forget the advantages of HSUPA (DO-RevB) for email sync (attachments etc...).

Ravi said...

FWIW, the Sony Ericsson Xperia X1 supports HSUPA, but that is the only handset from a tier-one manufacturer that has been announced. I would expect that we should see more at CTIA from LG and Samsung, but it doesnt look like the rollout of devices will be as quick as HSDPA. Some of this may be due to chipset development, as Qualcomm is the only one with a commercial chipset right now, but it is probably safe to say that operator demand is playing a roll as well.

The fact that I have heard very little about HSUPA enabled services makes me think that we are going to have to wait for HSPA+ to get some real-time services that operators can monetize. Those services along with the increased VoIP capacity may mean that HSPA+ sees a wider rollout than currently expected. LTE is getting all of the attention right now, but that might change as we move into '09.

Edsard said...

Maybe I am the only guy here that is crazy and stupid and if so please teach me but...

Why would anyone (and when I say anyone, I mean anyone that is not in the Wireless business - we are not just anyone) want HSUPA now?

What can average Joe do with HSUPA? Better ping times for gaming... is that the best we can do? Common!

First off, I used to play Quake and Counterstrike and yes, Nerd that I was/am, I got the fastest DSL connection and modded it to get the best possible ping and thus kills.

The point is that when I played Quake or CS I was at home, in the dark behind a PC concentrating.

I was not on a Bus or train (where ping still sucks by the way - a wireless problem in general - not solved by adding bandwidth)

Youtube!? Give me a break!
Yes, Youtube is popular! Among who? Datacard users? Nope. Kids with Cool Phones, yes. But they are already uploading. So HSUPA will give me them the ability to do it more and faster.

Great! Now what?
We now have more of the same stuff.

I fully agree with Ravi!
Operators need to answer the fundamental question that I always keep asking...

Why should a consumer choose you?

And don't tell me just because you have HSUPA. Tell me:

That you offer Synching and Online backups of my Notebook... (Which works great with HSUPA)

That you can retrieve the Laptop if it is lost or delete data remotely when it is lost.(Which works great with HSUPA)

Allow me to use fast Video Streaming and Conference (not locked to 3G Network) (Which works great with HSUPA)

And yes, offer me VOIP. They consider it naughty. But this is frankly ignorence IMHO. I would gladly pay 100-125 Euros per month if it meant that I could use VOIP and not pay additional roaming charges for data when I travel.

I would gladly pay that amount all the time, because I then know that I won't have to incur those enormous longdistance and roaming charges (and get a 800 euro surprise after a month).

Its foolish not too. Because now I just incur the hassle of getting a hotel with free wifi and I use my E61 with Voip. In fact I even bring along my travel access point in case there is only a LAN connection in the room.

It's a hassle, yes. But i call and browse cheaply at DSL (HSUPA) speeds...

Dear Operator,
It's ok to be a bitpipe, really ;-)
As long as you offer complementary services. Arent's MNO's eventually going to become bitpipes anyway?

Am I wrong?