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US 'doesn't need wireless data' – readers

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Letters Recently we invited ideas from readers how the US could close its cellular wireless deficit. It's not impossible, we suggested: with the right infrastructure and a competitive market, there's no reason why North America shouldn't get the coolest phones and services first.

As it is, it trails most of Asia and Europe, and our piece was prompted by a wireless data start-up bemoaning the lack of a CDMA 1X Bluetooth device.

The reason for this, handset manufacturers will tell you off the record, is Qualcomm. The CDMA monoculture relies on chipsets from just the one supplier, and must move at Qualcomm's glacial pace.

Most Americans don't really like or want getting their data "on the go".

99% of the people drive to and from work. Looking at a tiny screen on your cell phone or PDA to get an e-mail or browse the web while on the road. I know I wouldn't do it.

Wireless web access or sending e-mails from cell phone is cumbersome and inefficient. I can wait 20-30 minutes and get to my PC at work or at home to get my e-mails. Plus a little "toy" on you 24/7 would mean that my boss can get to me 24/7. No thanks.

America is not Europe or Asia. We have our things to be proud of, they have Wireless.

Their perceived superiority in Wireless is just that. It's perceived. And it is developed out necessity rather than as a new opportunity. If you don't have a PC or Internet access is too expensive then why not use a small wireless device. You've got nothing else to get to Internet with.

Alex Dukhon

So there you have it: Americans don't want cool phones. Is there anything else Americans don't need?

Color TV? Penicillin? Round wheels?

Fortunately, many Stateside readers disagree. Although Alex's comment was typical of a vociferous fringe of QCOM shareholders: who devoted their emails to not answering the question, but instead talking about spectral efficiency, W-CDMA and other red herrings right off the Qualcomm marketing sheet (and thanks to the reader who sent us one of these PowerPoint gems), readers have more practical suggestions.

I am finally tired of waiting on the mobile pigopolists to, out of the goodness of their hearts, generously provide me with service common in the rest of the world. I am therefore changing my contract to a company that will provide me these services. I don't know the situation in California, but here GSM doesn't seem to be a "local monopoly" as you put it. Even if it were, I would still opt for that and support a local monopoly that brings me the technology and services that I want, rather than a national monopoly that doesn't.

The only way that we can get the services that we want is by supporting those companies that provide it. Supporting GSM providers in the US and staying away from those that don't will have two effects.

First it will push those that don't to upgrade faster due to customer loss. Second it will allow those that do to advertise the advantages and services of GSM more and convert even more people.

The only reason we are still so backward in American wireless is that the vast majority of consumers don't have the faintest clue that there is better out there. Even Sprint and Samsung, who have huge advertising campaigns in the US for their technologies, don't stress the difference or new features they offer. The advertisements are either so "artsy" that they don't show anything other than blue haired people lounging around, or they stress that their coverage area/call quality is better. We need to educate our friends, family, and neighbors by showing off all the "gee whiz" features of our GSM phones and steadily convert them, only then, as demand increases, will the marketplace evolve to a higher standard.

[Name and address supplied]

Alas, even that isn't enough. The consumer freedom that's wired into the European market isn't present even amongst Stateside GSM carriers.

Writes Maurice Hilarius:-


The real problem with most phones over here is that the various service providers just "don't get it". Typically you get a GSM phone. You think "When I travel I can simply get a local SIM card and I am all set", or "When I go somewhere else I can subscribe to local GPRS providers".

Wrong. The local providers want you to buy the phone with a service contract. So you get one of those. And it is SIM locked to their SIMs only. So you get that fixed.

And the phone menu does not let you set up for a different GPRS provider. Why? Because the phone manufacturers get asked to make the firmware that way, and they are STUPID enough to comply.

I bought a Mototorola Timeport P280 last year, triband GSM, which should work anywhere except Japan.

Wrong. The firmware in it is programmed for Voicestream only. I managed to get the code to unlock the SIM cards accepted. But to change the GPRS setup I had to send it back to Motorola and pay a fee for reprogramming. This is a phone advertised as a "World phone"

Assholes, the lot of them.

Maurice W. Hilarius




If AT&T would get their GPRS network in gear nationwide I'd finally buy the T68i or the forthcoming P800. But since I travel throughout the US, most of the time outside AT&T's GPRS network, I need a phone that can call from anywhere in the US.


Duane Pandorf

Its getting harder and harder to care about anything that happens in or to the US. Boohoo- they don't have Bluetooth. I don't understand why most US citizens are getting shafted and they seem to like it.

This coming from a country that promotes monopolies (Microsoft, IBM, Qualcomm) and values marketing hype and bullshit as more important than happy, buying, customers.

Sven Busselot

This isn't an ohms and hertz war between GSM vs CDMA. Here are a couple of modest proposals:-

1) Mandate interoperability between carriers. Give customers the same freedom to move between the CDMA networks as GSM customers have moving between their GSM networks. This means phones based on SIM cards, or a similar model: the point being that carriers have to compete harder on service, while customers have the freedom to choose the most attractive handset.

2) CDMA is dreadfully penalized by Qualcomm's grip on the chipset business. As CDMA doesn't have GSM's volumes, Qualcomm chipsets are typically much more expensive than their counterparts, and more so when they must support analog roaming. Little wonder, then, that manufacturers skimp on the extras Europeans take for granted, like Bluetooth.

Fixing this isn't going to be easy: but mandating that there's more than one CDMA chipset supplier will break the monoculture, encourage competition, and should lead to lower prices.

Of course we need to break the "General Motors" syndrome: that what's good for Qualcomm is good for America: and as our readers response show: not everyone has twigged that yet.

Qualcomm is America's most pampered company: there's little prospect of the FTC mandating greater competition anytime soon. ®

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