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Author Analysis: The 3G world map
goldenface
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Posted: 2006-06-09 09:53
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Analysis: The 3G world map

For UK business travellers the range of options for fast connectivity over cellular networks abroad - distinct from wi-fi and other connections - can be confusing. So how can you figure out whether your mobile will work at your travel destination?

Checking the websites of every operator before travelling is one approach but the following offers help at a glance. It's a quick and dirty overview of what to expect in locations across the globe - from the point of view of someone normally based in the UK. (Thus, for the purpose of this article, the assumption is the traveller owns a GSM/GPRS/W-CDMA handset.)

EUROPE

Most of western Europe is on the W-CDMA flavour of 3G that is used in the UK - also referred to as UMTS - so roaming should present few problems. It's also worth noting a recent investigation by the EU into roaming charges is starting to take effect with most of the UK operators having cut or getting round to cutting their charges for EU countries. However, using a data card abroad, even in the EU, remains expensive.


Western Europe

If you're travelling in Western Europe, you'll find 3G the norm. France, Germany, Italy - all have W-CDMA 3G operators. Some countries also have EDGE - akin to 2.75G - which boosts speeds in areas where 3G isn't present at the moment or isn't likely to be in the future.

As the region that spawned the likes of Nokia, even in the snowy wilds of Scandinavia connectivity should be grand. On some islands in the lakes in the north of Sweden, for example, there's no electricity, no gas, nothing for miles - and perfect 3G coverage.

Eastern Europe

Eastern Europe covers a broad spread of connectivity - in some areas, such as the Baltic States and the Czech Republic, owning a mobile is the norm, while in others such as the countries that made up the former Yugoslavia it is not, yet.

It's worth noting, however, that even in some Eastern European countries where mobile penetration is approaching 100 per cent, coverage black holes - where access is spotty or even non-existent - still remain.

GSM is, by and large, the standard across Eastern Europe although 3G licences are being awarded across the continent. W-CDMA operators are springing up with rapidity and one Bulgarian operator is already on the ball with HSDPA.

There are of course exceptions - in this case, Romania and Slovakia. Both have high-speed 3G networks, although using CDMA 2000 1xEV-DO, a rival standard to W-CDMA. UK 3G phones won't be able to roam on these networks. Both Slovakia and Romania have W-CDMA networks too, however.

Russia

Russia has a diverse array of mobile operators - 10 and counting - all currently on GSM but it is thought the country will follow Europe by adopting W-CDMA, the 3G standard used almost everywhere on the continent. Needless to say for such a vast country, in the more rural areas connectivity is hard to come by or non-existent. Those in cities such as Moscow should have no problem though.

MIDDLE EAST

As is the case in Eastern Europe, the Middle East has a wide variety of coverage depending on the wealth of the country. Kuwait, for example, has two operators - one GSM, one W-CDMA/HSDPA - and good coverage. Others, such as Oman and the United Arab Emirates, have GSM coverage but only around the major cities.


Once again, GSM is the major standard here, although business travellers in the region might encounter iDEN – an older proprietary Motorola standard being used in Israel and Jordan. It is worth knowing about iDEN for the simple reason UK phones won't be able to roam on iDEN networks. Luckily though, both Israel and Jordan have UK-friendly GSM networks too.

NORTH AMERICA

US

North America has a large array of operators and mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) but in the US the 'big four' (until recently a 'big six') are Cingular, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless, all with various technological standards.

Cingular's approach is one that will be familiar to Europeans with its network ranging across GSM, GPRS, EDGE, W-CDMA and HSDPA, or 2G, 2.5G, 2.75G, 3G and 3.5G technologies.

Verizon Wireless has an equally straightforward style with CDMA, CDMA2000 and CDMA2000 1xEV-DO - a similar sort of 0.5G jump each time.

T-Mobile is still waiting on its 3G rollout but does have EDGE to fill the speed gap temporarily, on top of GSM and GPRS.

Sprint, the union of two big mobile operators Sprint and Nextel, has two different technologies across its network as a result of the merger. Nextel's is based on iDEN and is now getting an update with WiDEN, which should raise speeds. Still, your good old-fashioned UK mobile won't work with it.

The other part of the network - Sprint's, as was - is based on CDMA and is being upgraded to 1xEV-DO, the high-speed version of CDMA. It is still equally useless for those carrying a UK phone though.

For those not in the know, the US isn't a 100 per cent covered nation and coverage black spots still remain, even in some non-rural areas. The US is widely considered to have better in-building coverage than the Old World, however.

Canada

Canada is much more of a CDMA camp, with a bit of a 1xEV-DO turbo boost. There's also one iDEN network and one GSM which is, handily enough, the largest to boot. GSM coverage is mainly in the south of the country, along the most populous strip which borders the US. In short, unless you're going to the Artic Circle, you should be fine. The GSM operator in question, Rogers Wireless, is also trialling HSDPA.

Beyond Canada and the US

Mexico has good GSM coverage, as has most of Central America. Despite the fact that several operators' networks are based on CDMA, the larger players have tended to opt for GSM. 3G services are not widely available yet, though Guatemala and Puerto Rico have 3G based on 1xEV-DO.

SOUTH AMERICA

In South America, GSM access is concentrated around the edges of the continent and in the south, and few countries have any 3G at all. Venezuela has some 3G services, although based on CDMA2000 1xEV-DO.

ASIA

Japan

Japan is, of course, the home of 'higher tech' mobile.

Unlike many areas of the world, Japan chose not to go down the GSM route, preferring PDC and PHS as its first steps into 2G. Both are now likely to be short-lived as the country is rapidly shifting to 3G technologies outright and there is around 97 per cent 3G-coverage across the land.

Japan's operators split in their approach to 3G, with giant NTT DoCoMo preferring FOMA - a W-CDMA variant which UK 3G users won't be able to roam on; Softbank Mobile (previously known as Vodafone Japan) opting for W-CDMA - which UK users can roam on; and au (KDDI's network) choosing the CDMA path, with CDMA 1xEV-DO. With speeds of 384Kbps, the CDMA variant is roughly equivalent to W-CDMA without HSDPA.

Japan has a number of advanced services we don't have here yet, including contactless mobile payments and broadcast mobile TV. Unfortunately if you want to take up such services, you'll need to buy a Japanese handset.

China

China's largest operator, China Mobile, is a 2G operation at the moment, while the second largest provider, China Unicom, has both a GSM and CDMA2000 network - that's 2.5G - on the go.

China is branching off in an entirely different 3G direction, trialling its home-grown TD-SCDMA variant of 3G, with licences expected to be doled out this year.

The best GSM coverage is to be found on the east side of the country, where most of the industrial areas are located.

Hong Kong, needless to say, is GSM and W-CDMA 3G covered.

Taiwan

Taiwan is covered with a patchwork of varying standards - the Asia-only PHS, CDMA, GSM and W-CDMA 3G. GSM coverage is extensive and 3G coverage is decent, so no real roaming worries to be had here.

South Asia

South Asia is by and large on GSM, with pockets of CDMA here and there. Coverage isn't great in many areas, although India and Pakistan have good coverage in urban areas. Most of Asia also has 2G CDMA operators as well as GSM.

Sri Lanka leads the pack however, having its own 3G network, using 1xEV-DO.

East and South-East Asia (beyond China and Japan)

Asia runs the gamut of all mobile standards – iDEN, EDGE, CDMA, GSM, W-CDMA, HSDPA – you get the idea.

GSM is still reassuringly present in most markets.

South Korea is an exception and very much leads the pack in connectivity terms, with high speeds and advanced services. Soon you will be able to get roaming by packing a W-CDMA phone - South Korean operators, after legendary advances using CDMA technology, have been mandated by their government to use the European-friendly W-CDMA. The state-owned operator is also upgrading to HSDPA.

Outside of W-CDMA areas, networks are CDMA, which is incompatible with UK handsets.

North Korea, by contrast, has one supplier on GSM - but few visiting business people.

Many of the markets here, however, prefer to follow the South Korean example by embracing higher-speed networks. Malaysia has GSM, EDGE and W-CDMA 3G. Singapore has GSM and W-CDMA. Vietnam has GSM in its urban areas and is starting to roll out 3G, albeit CMDA2000 (considered 2.5G), in Ho Chi Minh City.

AUSTRALASIA

Australia has a real mix of mobile standards, a little like the UK - including the presence of 3, a pureplay 3G operator - except Optus uses CDMA, which won't work with UK phones. New Zealand has two operators, Vodafone and Telecom. Vodafone, like almost everywhere it operates, uses GSM and then W-CDMA for its 3G. Telecom has chosen GSM and CDMA2000 1xEV-DO.

For other Pacific Rim countries, such as Fiji and French Polynesia, expect GSM.

AFRICA

Many of the poorer countries in the region have vast swathes of their land not covered by GSM or any other connectivity. Sierra Leone, to pick one random example, has no coverage except in and around its capital, Freetown. It is wise not to expect coverage when travelling outside major urban centres, even to some large towns.

Having said that, some vast areas have been covered by pioneering operators who cannot rely on the sort of infrastructure taken for granted in much of the rest of the world - a reliable national electricity grid to power base stations, for example.

South Africa, Swaziland and Tunisia are among the most covered countries geographically, again by GSM. South Africa is the only major country to have launched W-CDMA.
Krubach
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Posted: 2006-06-09 18:01
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Quote:

On 2006-06-09 09:53:05, goldenface wrote:Western Europe
(...)
France, Germany, Italy - all have W-CDMA 3G operators



What's beyond France?
Atlantic Ocean!??!

What happened to the Iberian Peninsula (Portugal & Spain)!?!?
Floated away?



Oh well... just to Add:
Portugal has 3 UMTS operators with almost 100% territory covered by each.
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goldenface
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Posted: 2006-06-12 14:41
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@Krubach

Sorry I didn't compile this report I guess we've just come to be known as boring old Western Europe

Why do all these operators choose different technologies? I mean there are three in the US alone

China is choosing its own standard and Japan is a walled garden though you can roam using Voda.
shaliron
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Posted: 2006-06-12 14:52
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In Australia Optus uses GSM not CDMA, sorry but I think some facts are wrong.
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goldenface
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Posted: 2006-06-12 15:21
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@shaliron

They seem to be offering 3G services on their website Doesn't say what standard they use though.
shaliron
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Posted: 2006-06-12 15:29
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@goldenface
W-CDMA is used for 3G services, but they do not use the 2G version of CDMA if you get what I mean.
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goldenface
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Posted: 2006-06-12 16:23
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On 2006-06-12 14:52:57, shaliron wrote:
In Australia Optus uses GSM not CDMA, sorry but I think some facts are wrong.




They seem to be offering both 3G and CDMA phones on their site.
brix25
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Posted: 2006-06-12 16:34
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That report seems to be a bit outdated...in most of Africa you'd be able to roam via GPRS. In South Africa we've got two 3G/HSDPA networks with a third ready launch it's services soon. If you happen to find yourself on the island of Mauritius could roam on the Africa's first 3G network.
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dlreyes
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Posted: 2006-08-06 23:40
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Added information on the Philippines:

For GSM:
Globe Telecom : UMTS/HSPDA
Smart Communications : UMTS/HSPDA

For CDMA2000
MulitMedia Telephony Inc (MTI-Broadband Phil) - 1xrtt, EVDO (MetroManila)
Digitel's MANGO - 1xrtt, EVDO (Libis area only)
Globe's Speak n Surf - 1xrtt (limited areas)
Krubach
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Posted: 2006-08-07 12:21
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Ok. Let me add Portuguese data too (i know many of you brits are coming here on holliday )

TMN
GSM 900-1800 / GPRS / HSCSD / UMTS / HSDPA (UMTS in almost all territory, HSDPA ill almost all major cities)

Vodafone PT
GSM 900-1800 / GPRS / HSCSD / UMTS / HSDPA (UMTS in almost all territory, HSDPA ill almost all major cities)

Optimus
GSM 900-1800 / GPRS / HSCSD / UMTS / HSDPA (UMTS in almost all territory, HSDPA ill almost all major cities)
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goldenface
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Posted: 2006-08-07 12:52
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Good stuff guys
Snow12345
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Posted: 2008-04-21 07:20
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If you happen to find yourself on the island of Mauritius could roam on the Africa's first 3G network.
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