ADSL 'to be overtaken soon`

By Warwick Ashford, ITWeb London correspondent
Johannesburg, 11 Jan 2006

Satisfactory high-speed Internet access has proved elusive in SA despite promises by various wireless service providers. However, evolved 3G cellular technology will soon deliver a new era of Internet connectivity, say Leaf Wireless and Ericsson.

Local, fixed broadband offerings may not be the fastest way to connect to the Internet for much longer, says Leaf Wireless MD Quinton Leigh.

Cellular operators are already conducting trials of this "turbo-charged" 3G using high-speed downlink packet access (HSDPA) technology, with commercial roll-outs possible in the next three months, he says.

To enable a smooth transition to the coming HSDPA capability of local cellular networks, Leaf Wireless has released a 3G wireless wide area network card from Sierra Wireless.

It is one of few such cards that will enable users to connect to the Internet using GSM, GPRS, EDGE and HSDPA when it becomes available, says Leigh.

Such multi-system 3G cards can be plugged directly into notebooks or transferred to desktops using an adapter. It provides direct Internet access at the best available data speed anywhere cellular operators provide network coverage, without being confined to wired connections or WiFi hotspots.

Leigh says users of the 3G wireless card can initially expect downlink speeds of between 1.3Mbps and 1.8Mbps (384Kbps uplink). Ericsson achieved downlink speeds up to 9Mbps in its own HSDPA trials over a year ago, and technicians believe speeds up to 14.4Mbps will be possible in future.

According to Leigh, HSDPA Internet access will be more cost-effective and faster than Telkom`s DSL 1 024Kbps offering because it eliminates the problem of capping and the need for routers. It also makes it unnecessary for most users to pay fees to an Internet service provider.

Thomas Sonesson, VP of customer solutions for Ericsson SA, says HSDPA technology is particularly well suited to conditions in Africa because large areas can be covered with relatively few 3G ground-stations.

Sonesson says cellular operators have established a strong business case for introducing the technology. He predicts rapid adoption locally and elsewhere in Africa to replace existing wireless broadband offerings.