The next phase of evolution in the WCDMA line of wireless access technologies
is high-speed downlink packet access (HSDPA). Though it is too early to pen down
the success and efficiency of HSDPA in high-speed wireless broadband, the
curiosity it has generated merits a closer examination.
For GSM networks either UMTS or WCDMA is the way to 3G. Globally, there are
64 WCDMA commercial deployments in 31 countries and HSDPA is expected to be
available to the end users by second half of 2005. In the 3G scenario, HSDPA is
a similar enhancement to WCDMA as EDGE is to GSM/GPRS networks.
WCDMA in itself is capable of delivering data speeds up to 2 Mbps and HSDPA
promises to hike data delivery by five fold to 10 Mbps in the 5 MHz channel.
Theoretically, HSDPA can deliver data speeds between 10—14 Mbps. But it would
be realistic to expect 2—3 Mbps downlink on average. In a shared environment,
with an adequate coverage, 300 kbps to 1 Mbps downlink speed is being targeted.
HSDPA also shortens the round-trip time between the network and terminals,
and reduces variance in downlink transmission delay. This makes HSDPA comparable
to any wireless LANs and fixed-line broadband in terms of data throughput.
Why HSDPA for Operators
It is no mystery that voice ARPUs would not be enough for the operators to
sustain themselves and only data over their networks would keep them from
As the consumers become more mobile and get addicted to rich multimedia
content over handsets, the demand for better network would rise. HSDPA would
enable operators to deliver advanced mobile broadband services and applications.
For an operator, who has already rolled 3G plans on WCDMA, upgrading to HSDPA
would not be difficult. The HSDPA-ready WCDMA base stations require just a
software upgrade and the network is ready to meet the demand for broadband
access over wireless.
As a technology, HSDPA has all the characteristics to lower the cost per bit
for data and can support services like interactive gaming, VoIP, and SIP-based
multimedia. It also promises improved spectral efficiency delivering more
consistent quality of service to a larger number of subscribers.
As it is being touted as an efficient technology that lowers the cost of the
on-going network growth, HSDPA is all set to attract the attention of the
operators who have already deployed WCDMA or are planning to go for a 3G
rollout. Though GPRS and EDGE have already made their entry in India, the 3G
plans none of the GSM operators is ready to come out in the open. It is also a
fact that they need to do a lot in their present offerings before they migrate
to WCDMA, which in turn would usher in HSDPA. And, this seems a couple of years