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In newly conquered Iraq, the cellular licenses have fallen into the hands of three local GSM bidders, against the wishes of some corporate lobbyists in the United States. But is the rest of the Middle East being reshaped to Washington's lines?

It's too early to tell. But neighboring Jordan, which already boasts two GSM networks has opened the bidding to allow Qualcomm's CDMA a fighting chance, the Saudi Gazette reports. The Jordanian Telecommunications Regulatory Commission says a "technology neutral" license is up for grabs on the 1900Mhz band.

This is music to the ears of lobbyists in San Diego. Despite boasting superior technology, Qualcomm's CDMA arrived too late to stop the global GSM standard becoming the air interface of choice in developing countries.. Qualcomm can boast two US carriers, the nation of South Korea, and one Chinese licensee as reward for its troubles, although it has a negotiated a cut of royalties (vs Nokia and Ericsson) for the latter.

GSM's time division technology was, as Qualcomm stockholders correctly point out, quite inferior- but what's the point of a telephone call if there's no one to talk to at the other end? As a late arrival - over-promising and underdelivering- Qualcomm's fate as also-ran was baked in from the start.

However CDMA's reliance on the US satellite network - it's used to synchronize the base stations - does give the United States a vested interest in seeing that the technology succeeds. This satellite network is overseen by the United States' Department of Defense: prop. one Mr. Donald Rumsfeld.

The Middle East, like much of the world, has so far proved a barren ground for CDMA. We can be sure that Qualcomm and friends will be lobbying hard for this win. ®

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