On July of this year, Korea's various telecom companies began to offer WiBro, the mobile broadband service that has been developed in Korean by Koreans. But not three months later, on September 24, the CDMA Development Group and the Third Generation Partnership Project 2 announced publication of the air interface for Ultra Mobile Broadband, or UMB. The press release stated that "UMB represents a major break-through in next generation mobile broadband services by enabling the transfer of native IP, variable length, data packets at speeds that are orders of magnitude higher than what is commercially available today."
UMB is still only on paper, but first estimates of the time when it is commercially available to the global market is the first half of 2009, less than two years away. WiBro as a technology is still in its infancy. Will WiBro be able to succeed in the face of this alternative technology A technical comparison can give us the answer.
Both of the technologies offer fast mobile data transfer to wireless devices, no matter if the wireless device is moving or standing still. Both of the technologies emulate some aspects of the existing cell phone network. Both technologies promise reliability and increased coverage over time. But the devil, as they say, is in the details.
The most important detail, of course, is the data transfer speed. WiBro is a commercially available technology, and Korea Telecom currently offers 18.4 megabytes per second (Mbps) download and 4 Mbps upload speeds for US$22 a month.
However, users report average realworld speed is more along the lines of 3 Mbps download and 1.2 Mbps upload. UMB, on the other hand, offers theoretical speeds of 288 megabytes per second (Mbps) download and 75 Mbps upload on paper with the appropriate infrastructure. One can easily figure out that UMB promises to be 25 times faster than existing WiBro offerings. It seems that in direct competition, WiBro would not be anywhere near the same generation of technology in comparison with UMB.
One of the major attractions of both technologies is that they can still be used while the device is moving at high speed, in the same way that cellular phones work today. As a baseline, cellular phone networks can keep calls connected to a device that is moving up to 250 km/h. WiBro is set up to support mobile broadband to devices moving at a speed of up to 120 km/h. UMB, on the other hand, is slated to offer no change in data connection in excess of speeds of 300 km/h. So, both in device geographical speed and data throughput speeds, UMB is far ahead of any competition.
WiBro currently uses 8.75 MHz of bandwidth for each channel to deliver data. UMB's design requires 20 MHz bandwidth for each channel at maximum capacity, but is designed to be flexible in the bandwidth it takes up, able to go down to 1.25 MHz. It is not certain but guessable that data speeds will degrade as less bandwidth is available.
In addition, UMB requires an entirely new network of base stations to be set up before the technology becomes reliable. In this aspect, it would seem that WiBro has a clear advantage of taking up less space on the limited radio spectrum and already being deployed.
In fact the biggest advantage that WiBro has over UMB is that it is here now. The technology has plenty of time to mature before its competitors are implemented, and hopefully it will be able to grow to meet the challenges.
There are some indications that it will indeed do just that. Executives at Samsung promise that WiBro will be offered at speeds of 100 Mbps down and 1 Mbps up in 2008. Judging by the trends in the electronics industry, this dramatic increase in speed will continue. If it does, it, could keep WiBro ahead of its competition.