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    3’s network ready and firing, operator claims


    We’re ahead of the competition

    3 UK’s network has seen a 250% increase in voice traffic in the past five months, and data traffic up from between 180-300%, depending traffic spikes. MMS traffic has risen 300% in the same period, David Cooper, chief technical officer for the network told journalists at  a briefing yesterday.

    Although data traffic overall, including SMS, only accounts for 15% of the traffic on 3’s network, Cooper said that data traffic has at times surged ahead, as the operator has launched new content.

    Cooper also defended the 15% number, relatively low for a mobile operator, especially a 3G operator, saying that 3 were ahead of other operators in terms of the amount of content-driven usage they are generating.

    “The increase [in data traffic] depends entirely on content,” he said. “The amount of pages we serve is dramatically higher than anything you will see from other operators.”

    He also said it paid to bear in mind 3’s high ARPU’s (up around £44 per month as opposed to the industry average of £24) meant that any increase in data take-up meant a proportionate rise in margin to the operator.

    Nokia’s Esa Harju, director of marketing for Nokia Networks, an infrastructure supplier to 3, said that by 2008 he expects to see about 10-20% of operators’ revenues coming from content related services. Around 10% would be accounted for by person to person messaging, Harju said, giving an overall data percentage of around 30%

    Harju claimed that the radio network side of 3G had now been largely solved. The real issues were going to be around terminals (“Any new technology needs a good portfolio of attractive devices to drive uptake”) and “creating new value systems.”

    “We have learnt how to truly commercialise WCDMA networks,” he said. “It’s been a learning exercise for both of us, and we have had to be realistic and pragmatic about our service update. But we remain convinced this market will be as good as we thought it would be.” Harju said.

    Cooper said that 3 is now over its initial problems at both network and terminal level. The operator now has all the back end systems in place to introduce new services, running across either its packet switched or circuit switched core, relatively smoothly, he said.

    “We have enhancements in our messaging platform [provided by Logica CMG, Mobile Europe learnt] which will drive increased revenues. For streaming services we have all the encoding sorted out depending on which terminal we are serving,” he said. “It’s all about getting the download time down.”

    Cooper said that from tenders in the market, he thinks Vodafone, Orange and O2 are having the same network optimisation problems that 3 has had. The difference is that 3 has in place its IT architecture to take advantage of the radio and core network infrastructure, he said. It made service creation “fairly easy”, he added.


    In terms of future development, both Harju (as you’d expect) and Cooper (as you’d expect with his main supplier in the room) doubted that the upgrade to HSDPA (a technology that raises the downlink speed of a 3G network) would present an opportunity for rival vendors to win back contracts from operators with an incumbent supplier.

    “HSPDA is a software upgrade, and we may have to load the odd extra card,” Cooper said, “so the cost is relatively minimal. The base infrastructure stays the same — so you can work it out for yourself,” he hinted.

    Harju added that as the upgrade was really a radio interface issue, it was “a bit strong” to say that introducing the technology was an entry point for rival vendors. 

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