One of the big problems that O2 faces with its i-mode service is that it is yet again marketing another mobile phone format to customers who so far have had enough trouble getting their head round Wap and 3G. So I am kind of surprised by Orange’s announcement today that it is to debut an EDGE service in the UK.
EDGE, or Enhanced Data for GSM Evolution to give its full moniker, is basically a hybrid between GPRS and 3G. It offers data download speed that are around three times faster than GPRS, but still less than half of those of 3G. So basically in areas where it hasn’t got 3G coverage – 30 per cent of the population – users can still surf the web at reasonably fast speeds.
Orange is also committed to EDGE internationally and at the last count has EDGE networks in France, Slovakia, Romania, Poland and Belgium (Mobistar).
Fortunately for us confused punters Orange isn’t going to market EDGE to its customers; rather the company insists it is just an added benefit for those on its GPRS and 3G tariffs.
So who is going to benefit. Well to start you’ll need an EDGE phone. Ironically Orange’s lead phone is the brand new Blackberry the 8700g. While it is a decent enough device it has very limited 64MB of non-upgradeable storage, so having the option of downloading lots of large files quickly isn’t really much of a benefit to 8700g users. It will speed up web surfing, but as anyone who uses a BlackBerry knows the device has a really crap browser.
Orange is also launching a new Business Everywhere laptop data card later in the spring which includes EDGE compatibility as well as GPRS, 3G and Wi-Fi, and has a few other EDGE compatible handsets namely Nokia’s 6280, 6630, 6680 and N70, and its own SPV M5000. So owners of these handset will benefit. The only real worry for Orange is the signal it sends out about 3G. The company insists it is 100% focused on 3G, and of course HSDPA, but nevertheless releasing a hybrid technology in areas where it doesn’t have a 3G signal sends out mixed messages. The company insists that the only reason it has mentioned EDGE is because it has been upgrading old transmitters and the new ones, made oddly enough by Nokia, automatically have EDGE compatibility. We’ll take them at their word for now.