EDGE Technology Emerges In Hungary

Today Hungarian operator Pannon GSM announced the worlds first EDGE (Enhanced Data for GSM or Global Evolution) phone call on a live network. EDGE was a technology that was discarded a few years ago because people believed UMTS (3G) would quickly render it obsolete. However, UMTS networks have proven to be expensive to install and problem-laden. Some carriers without investments in UMTS spectrum are considering other ways to upgrade their GPRS networks. Thus, the resurrection of EDGE. The EDGE revival has been particularly active in the US, where the GSM operators are seriously threatened by their CDMA competitors. Verizon and Sprint have relatively cheap CDMA upgrade paths to 1xRTT and EV-DO, which will allow them speeds of up to 144Kbps and 2.4Mbps respectively. If the GSM carriers only choices were GPRS at up to (a very theoretical) 114Kbps, and the expensive UMTS, it would be a sticky wicket. The EDGE alternative provides some relief. Some analysts say the data matters little, since voice is still 98% of revenue – true, but voice is a commodity and data is a strong potential differentiator. The CDMA gang can win the customers on fast data, while also winning the commodity voice business. Usually, the US GSM carriers look to the EU for leaders to follow, but with Verizon and Sprint raising the stakes, expect the US GSM crowd to be leading the charge to EDGE.

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