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Ericsson's CTO Sees 42 Mbps Mobile Broadband by 2010

3G wireless Internet provides speed rivaling wire-line DSL speeds. WiMAX promises speeds faster than most cable modem connections. What is the highest speed we can expect to see for wireless broadband services?

HSDPA offers theoretical data rates in the 8 to 10 Mbps range. John Cunliffe, chief technology officer for Ericsson in North-Western Europe, said Ericsson has been running tests using LTE technology to provide peak speeds of 154 Mbps, an average speed of 78 Mbps and minimum speeds of around 16 Mbps. See Nick Wood's article, "80% of Web users will choose mobile broadband over fixed by 2013” for more information on Ericsson's tests.

PC Pro published an article this week where John Cunliffe described the steps needed to get mobile broadband speeds up to 42 Mbps in 2009. He notes that the fastest service in the United Kingdom is now about 7.2 Mbps, but this can easily be increased to 14 Mbps by “improving the codes using modulation.”

Using 64 QAM modulation would provide speeds up to 21 Mbps. Using multiple antennas and MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) technology, the 14 Mbps technology can be boosted to 28 Mbps. Cunliffe said, “They're two parallel paths, but we can then combine them to get 42Mb/sec. Essentially this is happening through 2009."

Cunliffe sees speeds greater than 42 Mbps even before the industry moves to the LTE (Long Term Evolution) technology.

If the price is low enough, this and other new wireless broadband technologies could provide a viable alternative to cable and DSL Internet services. Of course, for a given amount of spectrum, high data rates and higher order modulation mean less robust signals, which means more cell sites, increasing build-out cost and limiting service areas.

At data rates of 42 Mbps, it should be easy to stream high-definition video at quality better than that available from over-the-air broadcasters, assuming the Internet connection at the broadband cell sites has enough bandwidth to support multiple subscribers streaming 9 to 12 Mbps H.264 encoded HDTV video.

TV news crews have successfully used EvDO and other high-speed wireless connections to send stories back to the studio at rates less than a tenth the speed John Cunliffe is talking about. The higher speeds will be welcome.