Techno‐economic analysis of beyond 3G mobile technology alternatives

Jarmo Harno (Senior specialist at NSN, Espoo, Finland.)


ISSN: 1463-6697

Publication date: 8 May 2009



The purpose of this paper is to show how the bulk of the mobile telecom traffic is starting to migrate towards internet and IP based services, and the choice of alternative paths is widening as new technologies from different backgrounds are emerging. This paper aims to compare some possible approaches to find out suggestions for the most feasible technology selections.


The case study focuses on big Western European operators being in the position to choose the 3G and beyond technology track – whether continuing to the UMTS path or taking a more radical shift towards a full IP based WiMAX technology. The work includes full quantitative modeling of both cost and revenue sides, separating the network provisioning business from the service provisioning for more detailed economical analysis of the technology choices. For the revenue estimation, specific user benefit modeling has been performed against the technology related parameters. Special emphasis in this paper is on the risk and sensitivity analyses, which reveal more of the case dynamics than bare economic key figures.


The UMTS/HSPA path was found to be the most beneficial and robust continuum for the European incumbent mobile operator. Basing the new data services on WiMAX technology was identified to include more risks, although for an operator not having a license for UMTS network it provides a possibility to serve the high end advanced users profitably. The challenge lies especially in the narrower terminal and user base. In the worst development scenarios, especially the network provider of WiMAX is vulnerable, as making big investments on the network.

Research limitations/implications

Not all possible business cases were analyzed, so that no conclusion can be made, based on this study, on operators without wide GSM background, or WiMAX approaches of a limited scope.

Practical implications

The study gives support for the operators in deciding on strategic deployment plans.


The study provides unique information through comprehensive data gathering, analysis and forecasts, with feasible accuracy level for this kind of case study, combining both technical and business aspects of the still widely uncharted and fast developing mobile data arena.



Harno, J. (2009), "Techno‐economic analysis of beyond 3G mobile technology alternatives", info, Vol. 11 No. 3, pp. 45-63.

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Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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