MWC: Nortel takes a closer look at EDGE  

Vendor releases Evolved EDGE upgrade; promises to breathe new life into 2G technology

BARCELONA--While the rest of the Mobile World Congress did back flips for the latest radio access craze, Long Term Evolution, Nortel Networks was talking 2G. The vendor is proposing that operators take another look at the EDGE networks of yesteryear, and specifically buy its new software upgrade to the GSM base station, Evolved EDGE.

Evolved EDGE is essentially a multi-channel data technology, working much the same way as CDMA EV-DO Revision B. Several 40 KHz EDGE channels are merged creating a super channel of sorts, which can deliver capacity close to broadband speeds, said Scott Wickware, vice president of carrier networks for Nortel. The packet nature of EDGE even gives it advantages to 3G at greater distances from the cell site, Wickware said: “At the cell edge, Evolved EDGE behaves the same as UMTS.”

Only a software upgrade would be necessary at the base station, but the biggest obstacle to implementing it is to get the necessary upgrades in handsets, which would need to reprogrammed to accept the multi-channel streams. No handset vendors have yet to commit to doing such, but several other infrastructure vendors such as Nokia Siemens are pursuing the technology. If carriers elect to deploy it, the handsets will follow, Wickware said, and there are several operators that every reason to so. Operators who didn’t win 3G spectrum need to bolster their 2G networks while waiting for the advent of 4G technologies and even many 3G operators have only deployed UMTS in “islands”. For those operators Evolved EDGE would be a convenient way to upgrade their entire data footprint without investing in new 3G rollouts, Wickware said.

Nortel may have been talking 2G at the show, but it still took equal part in the 4G festivities. For the second year in a row, Nortel had its prototype LTE base station turned up, running over local 1900 MHz spectrum. This year its joint venture partner LG Electronics had turned its proof-of-concept terminal boxes into prototype handsets though, allowing Nortel to show LTE in its more natural mobile state.

Wickware acknowledged the noise over LTE had grown intense this year, but he said it was not being over-hyped. “The truth is operators need LTE sooner rather than later,” Wickware said, adding that the development cycles for all of the vendors are being accelerated. “A lot of infrastructure vendors and handset vendors are ready to tell operators about their products.”

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