Something for Everyone?
By Vaughan O'Grady
The third generation question is dominating the news of late. But could our interest in the future be diverting our attention from the needs of today?
Of course, business concerns dictate that manufacturers need to have a clear idea where wireless technology is going in the next few years. Similarly, operators hoping to grow the systems of today into the networks of the future want to know how safe their investment is likely to be.
As CDMA seems to be the accepted way forward, it seems a pity that attempts to bring together the various proponents of CDMA-based future systems are not being viewed more sympathetically by all the players involved. It's true that competition proved beneficial in the second generation of systems. However, those systems were often based on technologies so different as to make competition inevitable. By contrast, we now face the prospect of a number of groups choosing CDMA but unable to find common ground.
However, while we worry about what happens next we may be forgetting that we are still in only the first decade of commercially available digital mobile communications. In fact, as far as cdmaOne is concerned, less than half that period has elapsed.
It's impressive, then, that the IS-95 family of systems has now a presence in every continent on the planet, from WLL systems in eastern Europe to mobile systems serving millions of subscribers in Korea. More importantly, this so-called second generation technology is continuing to change and develop, to adapt to the needs of customers of varying needs and aspirations.
On the one hand, it is finally fulfilling the promise of high-speed data and value-added services - two facets of the vaunted 3G future that are about to be delivered ahead of time.
At the other end of the scale, the continuing importance of voice is
driving the influx of cdmaOne WLL systems into areas with
little or no communications where establishing fixed services
would be difficult or uneconomical. This issue's look at WLL
in India shows that basic communications needs remain a strong
driver for many potential markets.
However, for markets that require only voice at present, the evolutionary capabilities of cdmaOne offer the promise of data services when the demand arises. In fact, whatever the next generation technology proves to be, there is still a vast and growing market for technology available now, technology that can offer services at all levels of demand and at lower costs as economies of scale increase.
A wireless technology that aspires to be global has also to be inclusive - to have something for everyone. cdmaOne is doing this now; if the industry makes the most of its evolutionary capabilities it can go on doing so for years to come.