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Qualcomm readies next-gen 3G chips

As carriers deploy EV-DO Revision A, Qualcomm says its next version will triple download and upload speeds.

Wireless chipmaker Qualcomm is readying the next generation of 3G wireless technology, which should triple upload and download speeds for wireless broadband consumers on the Sprint Nextel and Verizon Wireless networks in the U.S.

On Friday, Qualcomm said it would have data modems ready in late 2007 for the next iteration of CDMA (code division multiple access) technology called EV-DO (evolution data optimized) Revision B. Today, Sprint Nextel and Verizon Communications, the two largest mobile operators in North America, have built their 3G wireless networks on EV-DO.

These carriers have already deployed EV-DO Revision Zero, which supports average download speeds of between 400kbps and 700kbps and uploads between 50kbps to 70kbps. And now they're in the early stages of deploying EV-DO Revision A, which increases the average download speeds by about 30 percent and nearly doubles upload speeds. Sprint Nextel said its EV-DO Rev. A network offers average speeds between 450kbps to 800kbps for downloads and 70kbps to 144kbps for uploads.

Now Qualcomm says it will introduce chipsets for PC cards and data modems that support EV-DO Rev. B, a technology that is supposed to triple download and upload speeds, according to Cristiano Amon, Qualcomm vice president of CDMA product management. This means consumers can expect average download speeds between 1.3mbps and 2.4mbps and upload speeds between 210kbps and 432kbps. The increase in speed puts wireless broadband on equal footing with DSL services, which offer similar speeds.

"I believe that as we move to EV-DO Rev. A and then to Rev. B, we'll start to have the speeds that are needed to match fixed broadband," said Amon. "But whether or not consumers decide to go with wireless broadband over a DSL service depends on the operators' business models."

The first products using EV-DO Rev. B are expected in late 2007 with wider distribution in 2008. Because Sprint and Verizon have been using earlier versions of the EV-DO technology, enabling the faster version of the technology will require only software upgrades to existing network equipment.

Carriers can also upgrade cities or areas of coverage one at a time. The new chipsets that support EV-DO Rev. B are backward-compatible with Revision Zero and Rev. A. This means that if a customer has an EV-DO Rev. B card installed in a laptop, but the only signal available is for an EV-DO Rev. A network, the card will automatically default to the lower network setting.