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GSM to overtake CDMA in USA

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When Nokia repeated its prediction that the global GSM standard could grab half of the US cellphone market, we were skeptical. Thanks to adoption by Verizon and SprintPCS networks, CDMA phones grabbed a seemingly impregnable lead in the United States. But the latest prediction from ABI Research suggests that the GSM family of standards, which includes GPRS, could overtake CDMA in a couple of years.

ABI pegs this year's numbers as 73 million CDMA handsets , or a 44 per cent share, versus 58 million, or a 35 per cent share. The latter is a dramatic increase from 11 per cent last year, thanks to AT&T Wireless moving from TDMA to GSM/GPRS.

According to the analyst company, GSM will draw level next year, 45 to 44 per cent, and nudge ahead in 2005. The share of others, which includes Nextel's iDEN will fall to 8 per cent. For the rest of the period for which ABI has made forecasts, GSM and CDMA technologies duke it out with scarcely a per centage point of difference between them.

Overall ABI sees plenty of growth yet in the US market. It suggests subscriber numbers will grow from 165 million this year to 204 million in 2008. ®

Bootnote: Nokia has its own typically understated observation to make about the politics of cellular standards. In a brochure showcasing business applications for the Series 60 platform, dated June 2003, the very excellent Opera browser is illustrated. The choice of story is interesting: a CNET report about Congressman Issa advocating that Congress ensure that the Iraqis are free to use only the very best CDMA networks. ®

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