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Building For Tomorrow By Focusing On Today

By Perry LaForge
June 1998

The first year since the cdmaOne brand was announced has been an exciting one. Throughout the second year, and beyond, growth and evolution promise an even more impressive performance. Perry LaForge Executive Director CDMA Development Group

This June marks the first anniversary of the branding of IS-95 as cdmaOne. During the past year there has been tremendous success in every aspect of the technology’s global diffusion. Whether it be data, third generation (3G) Wideband cdmaOne development, wireless local loop (WLL), access to new markets or international roaming, the technological superiority of cdmaOne is being acknowledged with marketplace triumphs.

In recent months, the public focus of cdmaOne and the larger wireless industry has revolved around the development of 3G systems. As I mentioned in my last article, perception has outstripped reality. While the debate continues, the reality is that cdmaOne is now exerting itself in the marketplace as the technology of choice.

Today’s efforts; tomorrow’s reality

At the CDMA World Congress we will announce our subscriber totals for the half-year, as well as future forecasts. While not intending to spoil the party, it is interesting to note a recent study released by The Strategies Group. In its World Cellular and PCS Markets study, the group says that cdmaOne will have reached 18 million subscribers by year-end 1998, a number that the technology is on-track to reach. Conversely, rival technology GSM will have 148 million subscribers.


However, by year-end 2002 — when 3G systems will just start hitting the market — the group predicts a different picture. GSM will have 279.4 million subscribers and cdmaOne will have 106.7 million subs. cdmaOne will continue to gain ground on GSM, reaching approximately 38 per cent of GSM’s installed subscriber base as opposed to 1998's 12 per cent.

The point is simple. By growing today’s market share we build for tomorrow’s systems. Current discussions over converging air interface standards and family of systems concepts for 3G systems have been grabbing headlines. A unified standard benefits all parties by providing economies of scale for the deployment of 3G. Additional benefits are: lower research and development costs, lower deployment costs, higher consumer adoption, increased international roaming, and joint subscriber unit and application development. But whether those talks succeed or not, cdmaOne will be well prepared for the market conditions of tomorrow, thanks to our efforts today.

Data is evolving
One aspect of that preparation is the evolution of cdmaOne systems to provide 3G-like data rates and capacity capabilities for today’s 2G systems. Operators will be able to offer subscribers dynamic data rates sooner than the 2002 deployment of 3G — indeed, they will be able to offer these tremendous services by the end of the decade.

The first step of this growth is the 64 kbps data rate, which will be available as a cdmaOne standard in the next few months. Operators can reap the rewards of ISDN transmission rates on the marketplace by first quarter 1999.

Even more exciting are the broadband data rates now being developed. Thanks to current development efforts, operators will be able to offer data at the 3G speeds they are asking for — 144 Kbps and beyond — by the end of 1999. These high-speed data services may be the first time subscribers will have access to broadband Internet access, due to the slow rollout of cable modems and DSL solutions. In beating these wireline technologies to market, it appears that cdmaOne may be a wireless industry paradigm breaker, becoming the first mass wireless technology to leapfrog wireline capabilities.

Now a wireless local loop solution is emerging. cdmaOne WLL is both more inexpensive and can be deployed in a more timely fashion than wireline. WLL deployment is rapidly becoming the best way for carriers to provide local telephone services. It's cheaper than wireline, and it is also deployed quicker, providing operators with a quick way to compete with incumbent carriers.

Last month's Pegaso Comunicaciones y Sistemas consortium contract reflected the need to provide local services in a cost-efficient, timely matter in Mexico’s market. cdmaOne was the best technology to meet those needs. The Mexico case is no fluke. More than 30 different cdmaOne WLL networks will be operating or deployed by the end of 1998.

As the world’s telecommunications market continues to deregulate, cdmaOne will remain as the best technology. And as the technology evolves, cdmaOne’s WLL strength will continue to separate it from the rest of the pack.

New markets and international roaming

Since last year’s announcement of the cdmaOne name, there has been a tremendous acceptance of cdmaOne throughout the globe. Asia continues to embrace cdmaOne, with Japan and Korea leading the way. China, Thailand and the Philippines all have adopted cdmaOne. In Latin America, Brazil, Chile and Peru have deployed or are deploying cdmaOne systems. In Europe, the primary stronghold of GSM, Poland and Russia are looking towards cdmaOne solutions for wireless networks. In Africa and the Middle East, systems are being deployed or are in operation in Egypt, Israel, Nigeria, Yemen and Zambia. These are just some of the recent adopters of cdmaOne.

With widespread adoption, international roaming is becoming a reality. Intra-region cdmaOne roaming agreements between carriers are now common, and international agreements are coming to the fore. Mobile One and Sprint PCS recently signed the first international roaming agreement between 1900 MHz cdmaOne carriers.

When looking at the full gamut of cdmaOne developments during the past year, it is clear that cdmaOne is becoming the dominant wireless standard of choice for new systems. As we move forward into cdmaOne’s second year, we must continue our focus on today and leverage our technological superiority so that when tomorrow arrives there will be no choice. And so, while the CDMA Development Group will continue its 3G efforts, our success is contingent upon today’s realities.