GPRS adoption faces challenges in Australia

The takeup of general packet radio services (GPRS) technology in Australia will play a critical role in the success of Australia's new third generation (3G) networks, according to an industry analyst.

IDC research manager Joel Martin said even though GPRS networks are operating in Australia (by Telstra and Optus), there have been challenges prohibiting its takeup, the same problems set to mar the takeup of 3G when it arrives.

"Take up of GPRS is quite low as there are challenges with the supply of handsets and the fact that the networks are not ubiquitous. There is no compelling reason to access it as it has a niche market focus."

Building on this, Geoff Johnson, research director for Gartner's Asia Pacific research centre, said there is very little pressure in Australia for 3G technology to take off, as it will be just as easy to use the existing 2G and 2.5G networks.

Telecommunications analyst Paul Budde agrees. "We don't need the 3G spectrum to deliver the type of services discussed so far; 2.5G can be used and these services can be implemented now."

Martin said IT managers should not be overly concerned about the move to 3G from 2002, instead focusing on implementing a mobile component in intranet and Internet infrastructure, and looking at how XML and WAP fit together.

Although the Australian Communications Authority has announced that the recently allocated 3G licences will take effect from October 2002, both Martin and Budde agree that the mass takeup of 3G services will not occur until the later half of this decade.

"3G will be useable in 2003, but in two years, there will only be very basic services available. Mass market services will appear by 2005," Martin said.

"The growth of 3G will be similar to the growth of digital from analogue; people will gradually switch over," Budde said.

According to research by Siemens, 3G subscriptions in Australia will reach three million in 2003. From then on, 3G will start to substitute GSM subscriptions, overtaking it by 2008.

"By the time 3G is available, a lot of people will be using GPRS and also by that time, the use of phones to access the Internet will be well entrenched," Martin said.

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