Mobile data communications is starting to become a major business tool, for many logistics and distribution companies, and businesses who have a logistics or distribution component. Instead of downloading a whole batch of work to a handheld or other mobile computer, then uploading the results of the whole batch at the end of the working day, the business can get more timely information by having the mobile send its results as work is done. The business can also expose some of this information to its end customers, for applications like live package tracking. A system can even send live data updates of additional work required to the mobile computer, reducing requirements for the user to manually input job information.
For timely updates and responsive applications, it helps to have fast transfer speeds. The last generation of enterprise mobile handhelds, at least here in the UK, supported integrated GPRS. The new generation just coming on stream support EDGE – Enhanced Data rates for GSM Evolution (hmm, smells like an invented name to me). EDGE offers more bandwidth than GPRS, but is entirely compatible with GSM using the same basic radio format, unlike UMTS (3G). This enables existing GSM networks to be upgraded to support the higher data rates.
Unfortunately, on the whole, the UK networks haven’t. They’ve concentrated on 3G. Orange have recently announced some EDGE support, while (as far as I know) the others have made no such announcements.
The networks spent a huge amount of money on 3G licences, and the customers basically haven’t turned up (ok, Ian, I’m excepting you and your N90!) It shouldn’t matter where they recoup this investment – hell, it’s now a sunk cost. Recouping from the mass market of existing 2G customers, to me, makes more sense than trying to charge huge premiums on UMTS.
Adding EDGE would also improve bandwidth for 3G users outside the 3G coverage area, probably at a lower cost than expanding the 3G network, assuming that the user’s equipment also supports EDGE.
Now, I wonder if someone could ask this question for me?