With the recently announced delays to the
launch of WCDMA networks, CDMA2000 may be given a further
boost. Korean operators are already leading the way with 1XRTT
services but it looks like it might not be long before others
in Asia and North America catch up.
Despite the charge by one WCDMA supplier that Qualcomm's expectations of delays in the launch of WCDMA networks were unduly pessimistic, NTT DoCoMo announced in April 2001 that its network launch would be delayed until October. On the other hand, the launch of the first commercial CDMA2000 network took place in October 2000 and two more networks have launched since then. And while the lack of handset choice has slowed subscriber growth, reports from Korea indicate that the network operators have been coping well with the radio planning for 1X services-although it has presented something of a challenge.
By the end of March 2001, all three Korean operators had commercially launched CDMA2000 1XRTT services. SK Telecom (Korea) launched the first commercial 1XRTT network in October 2000, claiming maximum data rates of over 144kbit/s. However, due to operator's capacity considerations, users have found initial data speeds to be more like 114kbit/s.
LG Telecom and KT Freetel also launched their IS-95C (1XRTT) services late last year. Meanwhile, KT Freetel has conducted next phase 1XEV-DO (data only) trials and plans to launch a commercial service in 2Q 2002. KDDI has also carried out 1XEV-DO trials in Tokyo and is considering a commercial network. Further CDMA2000 roll-outs are planned in Australia and New Zealand later this year. Telecom New Zealand could well be the next to launch a 1X service following its initial cdmaOne launch in mid-2001. In Australia it may be Qualcomm setting the pace with a new network planned to be launched from 2002 in the 2.1GHz band.
The following table shows the trial and launch plans for those operators, which have announced their intentions to offer CDMA2000 services thus far.
Qualcomm entered the latest auctions committed to acquiring appropriate spectrum to support a high capacity CDMA2000 1X/1XEV system by 2002. Australia is the fourth market after Mexico, Chile and Brazil, in which Qualcomm will roll out CDMA networks after purchasing spectrum.
This is Qualcomm's second foray into the Australian market after its 1999 purchase of 800MHz spectrum by a subsidiary company, OzPhone, which eventually sold its spectrum rights to AAPT. Qualcomm is confident that it is backing the future of wireless internet by setting the scene for the early deployment of CDMA2000 in the Australian market.
Other operators-and would-be operators-have also been keeping busy in this market. Australia's largest telecom operator, Telstra, with a nationwide cdmaOne network covering 98 percent of the population and serving over 400,000 subscribers, conducted 1XRTT trials with Nortel last year. The trials were conducted in Melbourne using four overlapping base stations. Telstra has yet to announce any further moves to be made towards commercial deployment of a CDMA2000 network.
Hutchison Telecom Australia, the operator of Orange One cdmaOne network, has acquired 1800MHz spectrum as well as 2.1GHz (3G) spectrum in the recent auction. Hutchison plans to roll out a high-speed data network in the 1800MHz band but has yet to announce an equipment supply contract.
Meanwhile, the third 800MHz spectrum rights holder, AAPT, had also been moving ahead with its cdmaOne build-out until AAPT's new owner, Telecom New Zealand, placed the network on hold in December 2000. Telecom New Zealand opted not to participate in the ACA's 3G spectrum auction and is reported to be currently conducting negotiations with Hutchison over a possible alliance.
China Unicom's plans to install a national CDMA network have attracted strong interest from Chinese as well as foreign cellular infrastructure manufacturers. Local cellular equipment manufacturers including Datang, ZTE and Huawei are all at various stages of developing production of CDMA equipment. Datang Telecom has completed the expansion and improvement of its Shanghai production facilities and a factory in Xian in Shaanxi Province. ZTE has made important progress in developing its CDMA2000 1X system. The company now operates production facilities capable of supplying switching systems of up to an annual capacity of three million.
After the first agreement made in February 2000 on the supply of CDMA chipsets, by February 2001 China Unicom and Qualcomm had signed a framework agreement covering CDMA intellectual property. Among foreign infrastructure suppliers Nortel has been training staff at its plant in Guangdong Province to manufacture CDMA base station and mobile exchange equipment, while Samsung has been actively enhancing cooperation with Shanghai Bell. Motorola, meanwhile, has already established a number of CDMA equipment manufacturing joint ventures in China anticipating the introduction of CDMA several years ago and has formed extensive cooperative relations with many Chinese enterprises.
China Unicom and SK Telecom have signed a cooperation agreement in which the two companies will join forces to complete the construction of China Unicom's cdmaOne system ahead of schedule. SK Telecom will provide consulting services to China Unicom to ensure a quick and successful upgrade to a CDMA2000 1X system.
KDDI recently started marketing both the PDC and cdmaOne services under the 'au' brand following the merger of KDD, DDI and IDO in October 2000. Subscribers are showing a marked preference for the cdmaOne network as more value-added services are offered and despite the fact that the PDC-800 service tariff is lower. The total number of cdmaOne users grew by 384,000 during December 2000 while the number of PDC subscribers fell by 188,000 during the same period.
In March 2001, KDDI and Qualcomm announced the successful completion of their 1XEV-DO (data only) trial conducted between July 2000 and February 2001 in urban areas of Tokyo with the cooperation of Qualcomm, Hitachi, Sony and Kyocera. The trial complied with Qualcomm's high data rate (HDR) specification (which forms the basis of the 1XEV standard) and enabled applications such as video streaming, web browsing and email to run at data transmission speeds of up to 2.4Mbit/s. KDDI and its partners performed tests in the Japanese 800MHz band using Qualcomm and Hitachi network equipment. KDDI will continue the trial by expanding the number of cell sites and sectors and is considering the commercial deployment of 1XEV-DO.
SK Telecom's CDMA2000 1XRTT network has been developed by 3Com and Samsung Electronics. It enables subscribers to access data services at speeds up to 144kbit/s and supports simultaneous audio, video and text data services. It is also claimed to double wireless channel capacity, although this has been found in an operational situation to be nearer 80 percent if higher data-speeds are required.
Rival operator KT Freetel's initial 3G service trials began on October 1, 2000 using prototype VOD handsets. KT Freetel deployed 120 Samsung-supplied IS-95C BTS in the initial Seoul trial area and then rolled out a total of 600 BTS in the Seoul metropolitan area by the end of 2000. There will eventually be 1,500 BTS rolled out in a total of five metropolitan districts and 59 major cities.
LG Telecom meanwhile has also upgraded its cdmaOne network to IS-95C. The LG group has yet to make a decision on its future intentions regarding its participation in the auction of a third 3G license--which the MIC is insisting must be cdma2000. Observers believe the government may yet reduce the fee for this licensee; this, however, would be regarded by many as a controversial decision.
Handsets for 1X services are still in short supply. SK Telecom launched with the SK Teletech IM-2300. The Samsung SCH-X100 is the most recent handset on the market. Soon to be available from Samsung are the SCH-X120, SCH-X110, SCH-X200 and the SPH-X1000. From SK Teletech will come the IM-2400 and LG will offer the Cyber X-1.
It will invest $200 million in the upgrade. The infrastructure supplier, Lucent Technologies, will install CDMA2000. Mobisel's NMT network, which covers Java, Bali and part of South Sumatra, will be expanded to cover the rest of Sumatra, Kalimantan, Lombok and eventually the whole country.
This article first appeared in CDMA World Focus June 2001 published by Informa Telecoms. For more information see www.telecoms.com