As you get packed for the next tradeshow, imagine leaving behind the item you thought most indispensable: your laptop. With any luck, mobile users may soon be able to travel a bit lighter with new, faster 3G equipment that handles computing and communications.
Qualcomm Inc. and Nortel Networks Ltd. say they've just completed the industry's first 7.2-Mbit/s mobile data calls over High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) gear. Their tests achieved data downloads at speeds that are several times faster than most fixed-broadband connections, and mostly quicker than what's achievable using today's WiFi networking gear.
Meanwhile, Sprint Nextel Corp. is pushing ahead with its rollout of CDMA EV-DO Rev A for the first quarter of 2007. Revision A is expected to crank peak burst rates up to 3.1 Mbit/s on the downlink and up to 1.8 Mbit/s on the uplink, using a 1.25MHz channel. Current EV-DO networks support average data rates of 300 to 500 kbit/s with bursts up to 2 Mbit/s.
So what do all these raw numbers mean for the mobile enterprise user?
"It's a huge boon to business and mobility," declares Gary Goerke, information systems manager at Ramco-Gershenson Properties Trust, a real estate firm in Farmington Hills, Mich. "It gives mobile users the ability to connect and download data from the office while they're on the road."
Should these services really take hold, it may open the door to BlackBerries and smartphones becoming the de rigueur business tool for office, travel, and home use.
Obviously, many users are already connecting to their corporate email inbox via cellular. "They rely increasingly on their BlackBerries and smartphones," Goerke notes. But he says that the extra bandwith will mean that users can connect to more complicated enterprise applications and data.
It's a trend that Goerke has already seen in the workforce that he deals with. "It's a huge advantage. My mobile users are already foregoing their laptops if they can -- they don't want to drag them to the airport if they don't have to."
Of course, when these technologies roll out, the real-world data transfer speeds will drop, depending how many people use them and how close a user is to a cellsite. That's why EV-DO promises up to 2 Mbit/s data calls but only delivers 500 kbit/s in the field.