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CDMA group jostles for position in G3 cellular battle

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A year ago From The Register May 1998 (a year ago) Political infighting over next generation cellular standards intensified this week, following a statement made by Perry LaForge, executive director of the CDMA Development Group (CDG). LaForge was allegedly "welcoming" the announcement of support for CDMA technology "by GSM interest groups in North America," but in the intricate world of global wireless politics, all statements are loaded. The CDG supports the cdmaOne (ANSI-95) standard, while Europe and GSM companies world-wide support W-CDMA. Relations between GSM and NTT DoCoMo, a leader in W-CDMA technology, were strengthened in an announcement last week, while the situation in North America is complicated by the fact that CDMA and GSM are deadly rivals to establish a digital cellular standard. Says LaForge: "We are pleased that the North American GSM community has vocalised its support of the CDMA air-interface as an element of 3G wireless systems. Discussions among world-wide standards bodies have shown that cdmaOne (ANSI-95) CDMA is the basis of wideband CDMA proposals currently under consideration. For GSM operators to express support for CDMA is a long-awaited and welcome development, as it lays the groundwork for joint efforts toward harmonisation of W-CDMA with Wideband cdmaOne." From the point of view of the GSM companies and NTT DoCoMo, LaForge's line is not particularly welcome. European telecoms overseer ETSI has decided to use W-CDMA technology in its third generation standard, but supporting companies are concerned about ownership of the technologies and patents involved, and regarding likely licence fees. So LaForge could be seen as putting a mark down for the intellectual property rights of cdmaOne members. And from his perspective, it would seem that the European GSM companies are different from the North American ones: "Many of the European and Asian GSM operators expressed support for harmonisation at the recent GSM World Congress, and we have been working with them. Unfortunately, a few North American GSM operators appear concerned that harmonisation will give North American CDMA operators a competitive advantage and have attempted to undermine harmonisation efforts." This is all terribly disruptive, he says: " Such gamesmanship will create an atmosphere of hostility and will very likely lead to substantial delays in the deployment of 3G systems by GSM operators in North America, which will impact 3G migration world-wide… The possibility of extensive delays due to protracted intellectual property debates is looming on the horizon." So it's about money, right? ®

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