It is expected that packet data will dominate circuit-switched data in the future, primarily to give users high-speed Internet access from mobile phones and other handheld devices. One of the key enabling technologies that will allow this to happen is known as Enhanced Data Rates for Global Evolution (EDGE), which combines multiple 30-kHz time slots available under Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA) to provide data rates of up to 384 kbps.
An interim technology is known as General Packet Radio Service (GPRS), which combines TDMA time slots to provide data rates of up to 115 kbps. EDGE technology builds on GPRS, offering enhanced modulation that adapts to radio circumstances, thereby offering the highest data rates in good propagation conditions while ensuring wider area coverage at lower data speeds per time slot.
Typical applications for this type of service include multimedia messaging, Web browsing, enhanced short messages, wireless imaging with instant pictures, video services, document and information sharing, surveillance, voice over the Internet, and broadcasting.
Europe is ahead of the United States in the deployment of EDGE technology on their GSM networks. Instead of the advertised speed of 384 kbps, however, the actual speed may not even reach half that. Where EDGE is already deployed in the United Kingdom, for example, the top speed is 160 kbps.
Nevertheless, EDGE (and GPRS) offers a 2.5G migration path to the global standard Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS), which is considered a third-generation (3G) wireless communications platform that will be capable of supporting speeds of up to 2.4 Mbps.
The introduction of GPRS and then EDGE as an overlay to existing TDMAnetworks builds on the operator’s existing investment in infrastructure. EDGE provides a boost to data speeds using existing TDMAnetworks, allowing the operator to offer personal multimedia applications before the introduction of UMTS.
As wireless data become available to all subscribers and they demand a full set of high-speed services and shorter response times, EDGE will provide an operator with a competitive advantage. EDGE also enables data capacity to be deployed when and where demand warrants, minimizing the investment required.