US cellular outfits forge alliance

But aimed at whom?

An alliance of sorts has been forged between the two rival cellular standard in the US, but it's not as yet entirely clear against whom it is being directed. The deal was announced yesterday between the North American GSM alliance, which represents US GSM companies running PCS 1900 services, and the Universal Wireless Communications Consortium (UWCC), which is the body pushing TDMA. TDMA is actually rather close to GSM in technological terms, and is also the second most popular cellular standard in the world. It is however a largely US standard, and its proponents need a route out. GSM, on the other hand, is the leading standard by miles, but the US GSM outfits are still locked in combat with the rival CDMA systems that started deploying around the same time. With us so far? One of the biggest cellular issues at the moment is over third generation standards, and that's what the UWCC/GSM Alliance deal is all about. The two groups say they "strongly support a United States position endorsing multiple standards for the next generation of global wireless technology currently under review by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU)." This, gentle reader, could mean a number of things. Qualcomm, the noisiest of the CDMA mob and the would-be owner of all the key intellectual properties, wants the US 'let the market decide' policy favoured by the FCC to triumph over the heavily regulated and directed approach pursued by Europe (this is the approach that made GSM the standard and made digital cellular take off fast in Europe). So maybe the US GSM mob is defecting, and making common cause with the TDMA guys to get a slice of the global action. Or maybe the alliance is actually intended to undermine Qualcomm's bid to establish its ownership of the key underlying technologies for third generation systems - multiple standard mean Qualcomm's less important, right? It is as yet unclear, but they obviously don't want the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) to define a single standard for IMT-2000, the projected global 3G system. ""Competing TDMA and GSM manufacturers and operators today come together and make it very clear: we support multiple 3G Standards," said North American GSM Alliance Chairman Don Warkentin. "Efforts by other groups to artificially constrain the marketplace to one single standard are not in the best interests of the consumer." They don't specify who these other groups are, unfortunately, but they've got a six point plan: 1. Free market choice of wireless technology. 2. The allocation of available spectrum independent of technology restrictions. 3. The deployment of multiple Third Generation standards. 4. The understanding that countries should not arbitrarily limit choice of standards to a single technology. 5. Agreement that second generation wireless customers and carriers be supported in the transition to 3G technology. 6. Agreement to investigate areas of potential convergence in the evolution of the technologies supported by the UWCC and the GSM Alliance. Now that last one definitely sounds like 'get Qualcomm.' ® Click for more stories.

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