If the future of wireless is 3G, then the future is also CDMA. Code Division Multiple Access is the basis for the three IMT-2000 technologies that are most widely supported worldwide: CDMA2000®, WCDMA and TD-SCDMA. And of those three, CDMA2000 has attained the fastest momentum. CDMA2000, the first IMT-2000 technology to be commercially deployed (in October 2000), now boasts 49 networks in 27 countries on 6 continents, and shows no signs of slowing down.
CDMA2000 was first launched in South Korea, and since then, operators across Asia, Australia, Europe, the Middle East, North and South America have deployed CDMA2000 systems. As of March 2003, there were nearly 44 million subscribers, growing at a rate of 3 million per month. 28% of all CDMA subscribers are 3G users today, and in some markets such as South Korea, CDMA2000 penetration accounts for 50% of all CDMA subscribers.
The market for CDMA2000 continues to expand. Though some have expressed doubts about the need for and consumer interest in 3G, CDMA2000 carriers are seeing phenomenal uptake of the innovative services and devices they are offering. With CDMA2000 1X, which has average data throughput of 60-100 kbps, operators are seeing data revenue increase more than 100 percent, and data ARPU many times that of 2G customers. With CDMA2000 1xEV-DO, an enhancement that offers average data speeds of 490-600 kbps, revenues are even higher.
Some of the high-speed applications that CDMA2000 operators offer today include Internet browsing, m-commerce, multimedia messaging services (MMS), streaming video and video telephony. Picture trading, downloading movie previews, and GPS-enabled location-based applications are just a few examples of services available now that have unlimited opportunities for both the consumer and the enterprise user. And there is no shortage of CDMA2000 devices on the market: more than 330 models from 39 vendors give subscribers a broad choice of features and price points from which to select.
There have been several key factors in the success of CDMA2000. It offers an easy and inexpensive migration path for CDMA and TDMA operators, requiring only minor infrastructure upgrades and allowing the core ANSI-41 network to be re-used. (There is also a solution for GSM operators to maintain their MAP core network and add the CDMA2000 air interface, enabling these carriers who do not yet have UMTS spectrum, or do not have the funds to roll out an entirely new WCDMA network, to offer 3G services sooner.) 3G CDMA2000 networks can operate in the 450 MHz, 800 MHz, 1800 MHz, 1900 MHz and 2100 MHz bands. And it is backward-compatible with cdmaOne™, allowing carriers the flexibility of upgrading their network as-needed, and providing customers a seamless experience and the leisure to purchase a new phone when they decide.
CDMA2000 will continue to evolve as the market demands. CDMA2000 1xEV-DV, an evolution that allows simultaneous voice and data at speeds of up to 3.09 Mbps on the same channel, has been approved by the ITU as part of the IMT-2000 family, and other enhancements are under development within the CDG and standards bodies.
The strong performance of CDMA2000 has proven the demand for 3G. Market opportunities for advanced services will only increase. CDMA2000 has led the industry to this point, and will play a principal role for years to come.
CDMA2000® is a registered trademark of the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA-USA)
Originally published in Wireless Asia/Telecom Asia (April 2003)