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Lucent ships high-speed wireless gear

The company says it has begun shipping the hardware that at least 10 wireless carriers throughout the world need to complete their next-generation mobile telephone networks.

Lucent Technologies said Thursday it has begun shipping the hardware that at least 10 wireless carriers throughout the world need to complete their next-generation mobile telephone networks.

Some of the carriers expecting to receive the hardware include Telef Cellular in Brazil and TMZ, an Australian carrier, according to a Lucent spokesman.

The hardware is meant for networks featuring CDMA2000, the so-called third-generation telephone network based on a technology developed by Qualcomm, among other companies. By some estimates, CDMA2000 will be in about 20 percent of the telephone networks in the world.

"This is the start of a new era in the wireless industry," Mike Iandolo, vice president of product management for Lucent's Mobility Solutions Group, said in a statement.

Some, including Lucent, say equipment for networks based on W-CDMA, a rival wireless technology that competes with CDMA2000, is not yet being shipped. However, "80 to 85 percent of the wireless carriers are going to W-CDMA, the world has pretty much decided," said Mike Houghton, a spokesman for the GSM Association.

Carriers, including Sprint PCS and Verizon Wireless, plan to launch their next-generation wireless phone networks within a year, hoping that the always-on networks, which deliver data 40 times faster than the present systems, will lure new customers and create new revenue.

But so far just one 3G network, in Korea, has been activated. Others have been beset by delays. The most well known is that of NTT DoCoMo, the giant Japanese carrier that has about 28 million subscribers. The company was supposed to launch its 3G network in May but has since delayed that until October because of handset and network glitches.

Analysts hardened by broken promises are still leery about 3G's deployment, despite Lucent's announcement that the gear is literally in the mail. Most believe the real milestone will be when handsets that work on the networks become available. Handset makers say that should happen in time for the holiday shopping rush.

"It's good news that one of the components is being shipped, but it takes more than this to create a viable next-generation network," said Alan Reiter, a wireless industry analyst with the publication Wireless Internet and Mobile Computing.

"Shipping equipment is one element, and it's a plus given that it's working," said Jane Zweig, chief executive of wireless analyst firm The Shosteck Group. "But there are bigger market issues that loom."