Finnish telecom Elisa is the latest European company to roll out commercial high-speed downlink packet access (HSDPA) technology on its third-generation (3G) network, although handsets aren’t expected until later this year.
HSDPA offers download speeds similar to fixed broadband networks. It’s the first commercial HSDPA service for Nordic countries, said Anssi Okkonen, Elisa’s vice president of products and services.
The company’s entire 3G network—covering about 40 percent of Finland and its major populated cities—is HSDPA-capable, also a first for operators, he said. Elisa completed the upgrade to its base stations using software from Nokia.
At least a dozen European operators have already launched commercial HSDPA networks, said Julien Grivolas, an analyst with Ovum.
The first commercial HSDPA service was launched by Manx Telecom in November 2005 on the Isle of Man, followed by Cingular Wireless in the United States a month later, Grivolas said.
Laptops can access the service if equipped with a PC card that retails for around 389 euros (US$477), Okkonen said. A 3G PC card for Wi-Fi services retails for about 329 euros, he said.
Monthly pricing is based on speed: 1Mbps for 39.90 euros, 512Kbps for 34.90 euros and 128Kbps for 19.90 euros, including 22 percent value added tax, Okkonen said.
Initially, the service will appeal to business customers for applications such as mobile e-mail, Okkonen said. However, laptops account for about half of the new PC purchases in Finland, increasing the number of consumers who may want mobile Internet at broadband speeds, he said.
Handsets that can use the HSDPA networks aren’t expected until later this year. BenQ Mobile GmbH & Co. is pushing to release the EF91 by June, a phone the company says will accommodate higher-quality TV and video downloads. Samsung Electronics displayed its zx20 phone this week at the CTIA Wireless show in Las Vegas, which also supports HSDPA.
But consumers are primarily concerned about reducing the cost for voice services rather than speed, Grivolas said. Mobile operators typically control both Wi-Fi and HSDPA, which may mean more price flexibility, he said.
“It’s in their hands,” he said of operators.
Finland has somewhat struggled in 3G adoption, Okkonen said. The country introduced mobile number portability, which set off a wave of provider turnover among consumers, he said. Fierce price wars ensued, with the bottom line for most consumers being cost rather than capabilities, he said.
“Everyone is looking at price; nobody is looking at new services or new phones,” Okkonen said.
As of this month, Finland lifted a regulation barring the bundling of devices and services, a move allowing for more pricing room.
-Jeremy Kirk, IDG News Service
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