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Nokia Siemens speeds up 2.5G cell networks

The wireless equipment maker is offering carriers a software upgrade for its EDGE equipment that will double the speed of downloads on their 2.5G EDGE networks.

Wireless equipment maker Nokia Siemens Networks said Thursday that it has new software that will more than double the download speed on networks using 2.5G EDGE (Enhanced Data for GSM Environment) wireless technology.

This is good news for first generation iPhone users whose phones connect to the mobile Net via AT&T's EDGE network. On average iPhone users report that they can get download speeds of 210 kbps. Nokia Siemens says that with a simple software upgrade to the EDGE network equipment, operators, like AT&T, can offer their customers download speeds of 592 kilobits per second.

EDGE is typically considered a 2.5G network technology that is based on the worldwide GSM (Global System Mobile Communications) cell phone standard. Many cell phone operators, such as AT&T, first built their wireless data networks using this technology. But now AT&T and other GSM carriers around the world are deploying faster 3G networks using a technology called HSDPA (High-Speed Downlink Packet Access). Networks using HSDPA offer download speeds between 600 kbps and 1.4 megabits per second.

Most of the 3G rollouts are nearing completion and many carriers are already talking about 4G networks. This means there are few, if any, carriers around the globe still deploying new EDGE networks. So why is Nokia Siemens enhancing the technology?

The reason is simple. Nokia Siemens believes that speedier EDGE networks will extend the life of the already deployed 2.5G networks. Carriers have already paid for these networks, so the software upgrade simply breathes new life into an existing asset. The network upgrade also allows mobile operators to provide a smoother transition between the 2.5G EDGE network and the newer 3G HSDPA network, since most carriers have a wider network footprint using EDGE than they do using HSDPA.

For example, I have a 3G Samsung Blackjack that operates on AT&T's network. In New York City where I live, I access AT&T's 3G network when I download my work e-mail or when I check my favorite mobile Web sites. But when I visit my father at the beach in Delaware, my phone often roams to AT&T's EDGE network, because the 3G service is limited there. When I try to access mobile Web pages or sync my e-mail from the EDGE network, the service is painfully slow. If AT&T used Nokia Siemens' software to speed up its EDGE network, I probably wouldn't even notice when I was roaming on EDGE instead of using the 3G network.

"By 2015, we expect to live in a broadband-IP world with 5 billion people 'always on' and therefore Nokia Siemens Networks is committed to protecting customer investments and continue to implement leading EDGE technology," Ari Lehtoranta, Head of Radio Access Business Unit for Nokia Siemens, said in a statement. "Dual Carrier software upgrade is an easy and extremely cost efficient step to bring broadband user experience to GSM/EDGE networks."

A faster EDGE network would also be great for all those first generation iPhone users whose biggest complaint is that downloading Web pages on an iPhone over AT&T's network is like watching paint dry.

Of course, AT&T would have to deploy the Nokia Siemens technology in order to get these benefits. The software will be available in the third quarter of 2008, the company said.