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UMTS Battery Life

Posted on Thursday 17 June 2004

Amid the ever-growing haystack of hype about 3G cellular one needs to focus on the needles of fact. While the UMTS operators and spectrum licensees would have us focus on multimedia applications (of which the early adopters have shown little appreciation) I will risk sounding like a broken record (skipping CD?) to point out that greater bandwidth has a price, most notably in handset battery life.

Evidence, you say? You want evidence? Okay, try this: Vodafone NL announced that they will open WCDMA services to a limited consumer audience. The service will only be available in limited areas of the Netherlands, which is odd enough to begin with, given how relatively easy it is to build out wireless coverage there (something I know a little bit about.) And Vodafone is hyping the bandwidth hogs:

“This initial launch will give those customers keen to experience UMTS, the opportunity to try out the technology prior to the full launch, which is planned for the coming autumn…applications include video telephony, live TV, video streaming of sports and music events, and video downloads, on top of the existing services such as video messaging. Using the new UMTS services, customers will be able to access the best content in sports, news, music, general entertainment and games. In addition, customers will experience better sound, image and video quality, as well as faster speeds for the downloading of games and ring-tones.”

The handset that Vodafone is launching is Samsung’s Z105. But here’s what Vodafone leaves it to you to discover: while they might exhort customers to use all those cool applications they don’t expect much daily usage because the handset battery lasts less than half a working day before it goes flat. Check out the specs page for the handset. The standard 1000mA battery supplied with the device has a talk time of 2.8 hours and a standby time of 4.1 hours. 4.1 hours! How could you possibly call that a commercially viable service?

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