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Cellcos' 4G club opens doors to vendors

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The Next Generation Mobile Network (NGMN) Initiative is shaping up to be one of the most influential forces in the evolution of 4G technologies, and is calling for wider membership as it sets out a little more detail on its future activities and officially launches as a company.

When it was set up in June, the group appeared to be mainly in existence to lobby regulators on spectrum issues - largely to allow current cellcos to hang on to, and reuse, their bandwidth for new technologies in future.

From July, though, its stated remit became far broader, focusing on areas that, the group believes, standards bodies do not adequately address, notably intellectual property rights. It also added Sprint Nextel to its list of leaders at that point, bringing CDMA expertise - and a future focus on WiMAX - to a group dominated by UMTS carriers (the founders were Vodafone, T-Mobile, China Mobile, Orange, NTT DoCoMo and KPN. With Sprint, these operators have a combined base of over 500m).

Formally incorporated last week as a UK-based company, the group has issued an open invitation for vendors to join their numbers, reinforcing the trend of recent years for cellcos to assert leadership over the evolution of standards, rather than leaving it up to vendors - something that, the operators claim, served them badly in 3G, with their market requirements inadequately understood or addressed. The operators have also put out a call out for research institutes and universities to participate as advisory members.

The NGMN group has created a set of requirements for a future wide area mobile broadband network with the underlying themes being interoperability, compatibility with existing networks and spectrum bands, and high bandwidth.

Thomas Geitner, the chairman of NGMN Ltd and CEO of Vodafone's New Businesses and Innovation unit, said: "As major players within the industry and heavy consumers of mobile broadband infrastructure we believe that the future of mobile networks should be determined by a mix of technical and performance standards. By drawing on our combined experience and commercial insight as operators, we will be able to bring a whole new perspective to the debate."

The group has not added much to its summer pronouncements as yet, but did say the guiding principles of the architecture it will seek to outline are:

  • High levels of data throughput alongside low levels of latency
  • Low operation and maintenance costs
  • Compatibility with legacy networks
  • Support of high levels of authentication and security,security, and differentiated quality of service
  • Improved terminal certification schemes
  • Plus, a more transparent intellectual property regime

Copyright © 2006, Wireless Watch

Wireless Watch is published by Rethink Research, a London-based IT publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter delivers in-depth analysis and market research of mobile and wireless for business. Subscription details are here.

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