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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Maximizing 3G services with Bluetooth solution

Features of the week:

The avalanche of Third Generation (3G) services last quarter hit the nation’s telecom market, but the question now is how would subscribers maximize this evolution, mostly by going wireless via Bluetooth solution? Writes REMMY NWEKE.

Ready for 3G:

Upcoming 32-year-old Lagos-based professional, Joseph Igboba, thrives on any kind of information, be it mere data or statistics and when he heard that some hitherto Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) operators have succeeded in obtaining Third Generation (3G) licences from the telecommunications regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), after due process, he quickly decided to change his mobile handsets, that is, three of them to cover the active GSM turned 3G operators.

This is in spite of the stiff competition being dangled by the 3G cum the largest Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) operator, Starcomms Limited.

Multiple handsets per subscriber:

Joseph’s three phones cut across the Sony Ericsson M600i on Celtel network, a Blackberry on MTN and camera-centric Nokia N82 on Glo. For him each of these phone sets has its own symbolic needs and that was actually why he got them since it is no longer news that telecom networks in the country are not stable as they should be and for him those phones are not for showing off but for keeping contacts with his business associates and aiding his job.

For instance, it was a decision to ensure that all his sets are high-ended phones, thus 3G enabled. Hence the Sony Ericsson M600i is a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) which came handy with a data cable; the Blackberry which offers him Internet access 24/7, anytime and anywhere came without a data cable, whereas the Nokia N82 – a mobile phone with five mega pixels camera; the same pixels for his Maginon camera, paved the way for him to abandon the Maginon camera at home, thereby limiting the number of gadgets he carries in the course of his work to just three.

Going wireless:

Unfortunately the Nokia N82 data cable could not be found in the market with excuse that the product is still new in the market and is yet to be explored by the Chinese.

However, one day, he was in need of a photograph he recently took in Dakar, Senegal to aid his proposal presentation, precisely with his Nokia N82, but could not print it out in order to align it with the presentation.

In the course of finding solution for this hiccup, he recollected that since his three sets are 3G enabled, they should have Bluetooth facilities. So, he made out time to search for the Bluetooth connectivity on them and succeeded in linking the trio. Therefore, he was able to transfer the picture after the handsets have been paired correctly.

To pair two Bluetooth gadgets, the user needs to use one to search for the other devices and then highlight the chosen ones to pair with and after entering the required pass codes, usually four figures with default set at 0000 the gadgets could see each other and by activating the authorisation, the gadgets can now see and connect seamlessly.

The Bluetooth advantage:

In the actual sense, pairing takes place by placing both devices in the connection mode after duly charged, powered up, and the Bluetooth functionality turned on; each device needs to initiate a communication session.

As a rule, in a connection between two devices, one device acts as the ‘host’ and the other as the ‘guest.’ The device in the host role is the one with the user interface from which most of the connection set-up will take effect, while a device could be in the host role with one device and in the guest role with another device.

For example, in a phone and wireless headset pairing, the phone is the host, but in a phone and laptop pairing, the laptop automatically assumes the host position.

And following relevant responses to the request by entering the pass-code, which at default is four – 0000, but could be changed as users deem fit on one or both devices.

Nevertheless, Joseph also used Bluetooth connection to transfer over 250 contacts on the PDA set to his latest Nokia N82 phone, which was accomplished in a jiffy, rather than the rigorous method of writing out the contacts, one after another on a piece of paper before entering same into the new phone book.

Gradually, Joseph began to gain confidence on the ability of Bluetooth to salvage his challenges, hence, he wasted no time in transferring the needed pictures from the Nokia N82 to his PDA because that is the only handset with its data cable available. Incidentally, the data cable developed fault and was unable to access his laptop.

Then, tension began to gain currency on him because the deadline for the proposal presentation was fast drawing nearer, when he remembered that Computer Village Ikeja-Lagos is just few kilometres away from his office; a market where Information and Communication Technology (ICT) accessories encompassing GSM phones, CDMA phones, and cables to name a few, could easily be picked. So, the next morning, he took a commercial cyclist popularly known as ‘Okada’ to the Computer Village.

On getting there, he was advised at the first shop visited to purchase a Universal Serial Bus (USB)-based Bluetooth for Personal Computing and not yet convinced, he went on to another shop, where after explaining his predicament, the shop owner still advised him to go for Bluetooth, and forget about data cables for life.

Internet on the go:

An instant search on his Blackberry handset showed that such Bluetooth connection could link him up successfully by way of transferring data and he settled for Bluetooth USB Dongle, a Chinese product, which description showed that it’s a quick and inexpensive solution as a Bluetooth plug-on modules to computers.

It also enables computers to communicate with any Bluetooth peripherals such as computers, PDAs, mobile phones, and printers among others, wirelessly.

The specification of the Bluetooth USB Dongle indicated that it’s a Bluetooth V2.0 compliant, USB V2.0 compliant with operational range of Bluetooth class 2 and 1 ranging from 0 to 100 metres.

In addition, the Dongle has in-built antenna with frequency band located in the unlicensed Industrial, Scientific and Medical (ISM) radio band of 2.4 Gega Hertz (GHz), even as it comes with maximum data rate of 3 Mega Bytes (3MB) and sensitive to 98dBM@ 0.1 per cent Ber attached with LED status indicator.

The Bluetooth USB Dongle has at least three software support, including Windows 98/98SE/ME, Windows 2000 and Windows XP as well as comes along with an installation compact disc (CD), which he purchased for N5,000 about US$43.35 with an underlining payoff to ‘Make life freedom’.

3G takes off:

The last quarter of year 2007, no doubt was a beehive of activities as competition got hotter, especially on who should be the first and invariably gain upper hand in the launch of Third Generation (3G) services in the nation’s telecommunications sector.

Despite the drive for the first position among key operators who have now migrated to 3G operators, what now remains is how to maximize the services embedded in the Third Generation platform whether as a 3.5G or 3G Plus.

The fact nowadays is the modules of living the 3G services out by subscribers of Globacom and MTN, alongside Starcomms, the acclaimed leader in 3G cum CDMA, while those on Celtel network await its official launch, predictably before this year runs out.

As a way of imbibing the culture of optimising 3G services by common subscribers, there is need to eliminate data cable usage. Take for instance, any one like Joseph with three mobile handsets may need to have three different data cables, plus charging cables because of the epileptic power situation so as to charge randomly wherever, whenever they find electric power and intends to spend upto an hour, mostly in the offices.

Between Broadband and 3G:

As part of his New Year message, the Executive Vice Chairman, NCC, Dr. Ernest Ndukwe, in the first quarter of 2007 declared that it’s ‘a year of broadband for Nigeria.’

Obviously some industry analysts did not understand the declaration, but by the time year ended, several initiatives in terms of telecommunications development gave pointed out to the fact that the EVC was predicting from a knowledge base of an expert as it turned out to be realistic due to the number of broadband-driven Value Added Services (VAS) that hit the sector.

Although broadband has been primarily associated with fast, permanent Internet connection, it could equally be received through the Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL), a form of DSL offering data communications technology that enables faster data transmission over copper telephone, cable, 3G or satellite technology deployment. While Third Generation (3G) specifically is a wireless technology making mobile videophones and high-speed Internet access a reality.

Experts at Intel’s body of glossary, described Broadband as a term applied to high-speed data transmission, such as cable, Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN), and Digital Subscriber Line (DSL), thus Broadband technologies provide faster connections to the Internet than traditional dial-up services.

Oragon Health and Science University defined Broadband as a way of transmitting large amounts of data, voice, and video that is greater than telephony networks. While experts at SearchTelecom.com, described broadband as generally telecommunications platform, in which, a wide band of frequencies is available to transmit information – data, facilitating multiplexing of information to be sent on different frequencies or channels within the band concurrently, thus allowing more information to be transmitted in a given amount of time, as much as more lanes on a highway allow more cars to travel on it at the same time.

Equally, specialists at the 3Gnewsroom.com, said that Broadband is a classification of the information capacity or bandwidth of a communication channel. Broadband is generally taken to mean bandwidth higher than 2 Mega Bytes per second (Mbps).

Relatively, Wikipedia, the free online encyclopaedia explain that 3G is the third generation of mobile phone standards and technology, after 2G, based on the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) family of standards under the International Mobile Telecommunications programme, “IMT-2000”.

3G technologies, experts at Wikipedia online opined, enable network operators to offer users a wider range of more advanced services while achieving greater network capacity through improved spectral efficiency with available services including wide-area wireless voice telephony and broadband wireless data, all in a mobile environment and naturally, provides service at 5-10 Mega Bytes per second (Mbps).

Stressing that the 3G networks are wide area cellular telephone networks, which evolved the incorporation of high-speed Internet access and video telephony.

As at November 2007, estimated 190 countries have developed 3G networks against 40 in year 2005, across Africa, Asia, Europe, Canada and the United States, according to the Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA), even as telecommunications companies are using the Wideband Code Division Multiple Access ( W-CDMA) technology with the support of around 100 terminal designs to operate 3G mobile networks, which tends to increase data transmission rates in GSM systems by using the CDMA air interface instead of Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA).

State of emergency on broadband:

This is coming as the alliance of 26 Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) firms with focus on broadband deployment and development, has urged the newly elected President, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar ‘Adua, to declare state of emergency on broadband.

The alliance known as Naija WiFi Consortium, dominated by the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the country, pointing out that Broadband is a transmission medium capable of supporting a wide range of frequencies, typically from audio up to video frequencies.

Broadband, experts said, could carry multiple signals by dividing the total capacity of the medium into multiple, independent bandwidth channels, where each channel operates only on a specific range of frequencies.

Speaking through the interim chairman of the consortium, Mr. Ndukwe Kalu of Amsco Telecom, they said the declaration would enable the government to give a focused attention to broadband deployment.

3G in 190 countries:

Noteworthy is that rollout of 3G networks was delayed in some countries including Nigeria because of the enormous costs of additional spectrum licensing fees.

By June 2007 the 200 millionth 3G subscriber had been connected. Out of 3 billion mobile phone subscriptions worldwide this is only 6.7 per cent and now that Nigeria as the fastest emerging telecom market has entered the stage, a drastic change would definitely be witnessed in the GSA records by end of 2008, given the velocity of Nigerian subscribers approach to technology be it 3.5G or 3G Plus.

For the chief operating officer (COO), Globacom, Mr. Mohammed Jameel, the 3G Plus also offers other advanced mobile services such as Video Greeting Kiosk, video mail box, video conferencing on both phones and Personal Computers (PC) and so many other services on the 3G High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA).

This, he noted, offers speed up to 3.6 Mega bytes per second (Mbps), even as it provides Nigerians with mobile Television (TV) to name a few. “We are empowering our subscribers to enter the next generation of technological innovations made in advanced countries and this will inevitably benefit the lives and businesses of the subscribers that utilise these products,” he said.

In addition to giving customers high- speed mobile Internet access, Glo 3G Plus allows them to do video calls and video streaming on their 3G mobile handsets. It also offers other advanced mobile services such as Video Greeting Kiosk, Video Mail Box, Video conferencing on both Phones and PCs and so many other services on the 3G High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) network, which enables speeds up to 3.6 Mega bytes per second (Mbps).

“By providing Nigerians with high speed internet access, video calling and mobile TV, amongst other services, we are empowering our subscribers to enter the next generation of technological innovations made in advanced countries and this will inevitably benefit the lives and businesses of the subscribers that utilize these products,” Globacom, Chief Operating Officer, Mohammed Jameel stated at the launch.

And for the chief executive, MTN Nigeria, Mr. Ahmad Farroukh, the launch of its 3.5G was based on the telco’s “unending quest to avail our customers with the best possible value derivable from information and communications technology has again been made manifest. Indeed we are the first ever telecom operator in Nigeria to make third generation mobile telephony commercially available to customers and potential customers alike”.

He also said that third generation telephony would run on a High Speed Packet Access platform (HSPA), which is technically mid-way between third generation and fourth generation mobile telephony.

“It’s referred to technically, as 3.5G and represents an advanced form of third generation mobile telephony,” he explained, adding that the major benefit of the company’s evolution from second-generation mobile telephony to third generation is the wide array of possibilities that 3.5G offer.

He equally outlined some major benefits of third generation technology to include enhancement of access to broadband availability, stressing, “In an era where it has been proven that Internet penetration has a direct correlation with social and economic development, it is our expectation that our evolution to 3.5G will speedily and significantly enhance Nigeria’s broadband penetration and ultimately help provide for millions of Nigerians, a reliable broadband connection, even when they are on the move,” he said.

As said by him, MTN’s investment in its network and infrastructure rollout continues to benefit not only from significant inflow of local and foreign funding but also from strong market insight.

ITU approves new 3G standards:

The launch of 3G products in the country came as ITU recently approved the new 3G standards to what some expects at the Radiocommunication Assembly 2007 (RA-07) accepted as a new global importance to include Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access (WIMAX), which is a telecommunications technology aimed at providing wireless data.

This approval paves the way for the deployment of a range of voice, data, and multimedia services to both stationary and mobile devices, just as it significantly opened the door to mobile Internet, catering to demand in both urban and rural markets.

At the meeting, the RA-07 formally recognized technology derived from the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE 802.16) standards by incorporating it as the sixth terrestrial IMT-2000 radio interface.

Director of the ITU Radio-communication Bureau, Valery Timofeev, noted that this is the first addition to IMT-2000 since the original five were adopted years ago as part of the 3G radio standards being used globally and pushes the technological envelope of IMT-2000 capabilities.

He also said that IMT-2000 is a global standard defined by ITU in a set of interdependent ITU recommendations, which include the specifications for the radio interfaces of advanced wireless communications systems such as 3G mobile.

An initial application for the IMT-2000 advanced standard, he said, was made at the ITU-R WP8F meeting in Kobe, Japan, in January last year, adding that the adoption of the latest radio interface was the culmination of tireless effort among administrations, industry and ITU experts.

Conclusion:

To maximise the latest offering of 3G despite the brand name they may come with, the Nigerian telecom subscribers have to got to tap into the evolution to make their lives easier or better still ‘Make life freedom’ according to Dongle, by going for wireless solution like Bluetooth, mostly considering the hiccups associated with cable-related connection.

Only time shall tell how this adaptation would prevail before the end of this year. Before then, free yourself by going wireless.

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