Washington (DC) – One of the most heavily anticipated demonstrations at the CTIA Wireless conference next week will feature notebook computers utilizing the next generation of EV-DO wireless connections to receive and transmit data at broadband speeds. With a new class of Evolution Data-Optimized (EV-DO) Rev. A PC Cards, completely mobile computers could become self-contained uplink stations, transmitting data at up to eleven times the current speed of EV-DO “Rev. 0,” if demos planned by Novatel Wireless and others are successful.
As Novatel’s vice president of business development, Brad Weinert, told TG Daily, the company is working to make “pre-production” versions of its Merlin 720 EV-DO Rev. A card, available to carriers probably by September, for integration by those carriers into their service plans before the end of the year. Weinert said Merlin 720 will increase downlink speeds from EV-DO’s current 2.4 Mbps to Rev. A’s projected maximum of 3.1 Mbps, though he cautioned that this only translates to a perceived download acceleration of only a few hundred kilobits per second. What will sell Rev. A, said Weinert, is the uplink capacity, which will increase from Rev. 0’s 384 kbps to as high as 1.8 Mbps. Perceived uplink speeds should increase, he said, to as high as 600 kbps, from the almost phone-modem-like speeds users put up with today.
The speed boost, Weinert believes, will make EV-DO for notebooks more appealing to carriers such as Verizon Wireless, who is likely to provide news on the upgrading of its EV-DO network infrastructure next week at CTIA Wireless. Up to now, he explained, VoIP service on EV-DO has been accomplished via Skype, which while effective to a moderate extent, places users in a position where they’re “completely at the mercy of the performance of the network, and how many other users that are logged in.” With significantly boosted two-way throughput, he added, carriers may see the benefits of offering video and voice conferencing services with guaranteed quality tiers, perhaps with multiple QoS levels. “There’s a more robust product that’s going to be available for the carriers to ultimately charge more money for, or to have more service plans for,” he said.
In addition to carrier-based service offerings, Weinert said, notebook manufacturers – among them, most specifically, Dell – are likely to announce service bundling for the first time, combining their top-tier notebook brands with Verizon EV-DO and Novatel PC Cards. Though pricing data is not yet official, expect EV-DO service charges to cost customers $60/month, he predicted, with Verizon knocking down the price of the card by half to $99 with a one-year pre-paid service contract. Although Novatel cards will be available on the open retail market, he also predicted, “you won’t see a lot of retail sales for the card without a service plan, because it doesn’t make a lot of sense when you can get it for free from Sprint or Verizon. They’re buying it down, basically.”
The one potential monkey wrench in the EV-DO rollout plan concerns Lucent Technologies, which is the technology provider for EV-DO networks for both Verizon and Sprint. Earlier this week, Lucent verified it is in acquisition talks with French telecom company Alcatel, which could potentially wrest claim to the technology heritage of the old Bell Laboratories. Alcatel is no stranger to working with Novatel; however, Alcatel’s European wireless infrastructure is currently based on High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA), which is a competitor standard to EV-DO in France and throughout Europe. Whether Alcatel would be willing to carry on EV-DO development, including Rev. A, is unclear, as it and Lucent have gone silent on nearly all public comments this week.