When it comes to third generation mobile Europe may be W-CDMA territory, but the rival CDMA2000 technology is still in there batting hard. And batting away in support is the CDMA Development Group which recently held a round table in London to tell us journalists just how well everything was going.
In summary there is more CDMA2000 happening than you'd expect (if you just read the European technical press), handset prices and handset range (always thought the trump card for the rival camp) is no longer a big differentiator, and for some applications CDMA is proving its worth in Europe by being deployed over huge cell-sizes, economically.
The technology squabble over the two technologies is long-standing and labyrinthine - as radio technology squabbles always are. There simply isn't enough time or interest on this side to lay it out, and from our readers' points-of-view (busy, important people all), life is just too short.
Essentially there's the European standards (GSM leading to W-CDMA, which stands for Wideband-CDMA in 3G) and the North American approach (CDMA leading to CDMA2000 in 3G).
In 2G the North American camp initally won out in the Americas (North and South) Korea and Japan, but the GSM lot won nearly everywhere else and, just to rub extra mud in, have in recent years been turning round some of the orginal CDMA-using mobile operators epecially in South America and in the USA itself.
The abiding thing to remember about 3G is that it is more an evolution of the existing 2G network and its ways of being than a 'big bang' new network development. So the operators who are CDMA-based in 2G are best advised (says the CDG) to stick with CDMA and migrate to CDMA2000 and GSM operators naturally take the W-CDMA route.
In fact, while the arguments are usually represented in technical terms (my technology is better than yours because of some barely relevant characteristic) it's really all about ecosystems and first move advantage.
The first technology to gain critical mass tends to win because it gets the most support, and because it's winning it gets even more support. That means more technology investment, more handsets with more features and better pricing - underlying technology advantages don't matter much.
However, despite being the underdog and despite going out to bat against overwhelming odds, CDMA is still growing in Europe and doing well where it's being deployed, says the CDG. That tends to be in relatively under-served or low-density markets, especially in Eastern Europe. CDMA now claims 24 operators in 16 European countries planning to deploy CDMA2000 in the lower frequency bands (at 450 and 800 MHz) where its characteristics make it particularly cost-effective in countries such as Poland, Rumania and Rusia. That total has doubled in less than two years, claims the group.
The handset situation is not what it was either. CDG points to the Indian market to illustrate its case. According to the Yankee Group, CDMA has been driving the sub-US$50 market there with CDMA models (and therefore CDMA networks) taking 78% of this category. So there's plenty of CDMA handsets available and they're not expensive.
In total Europe is now covered by 15 commercial CDMA2000 1X networks, 11 EV-DO Release 0 (Rel. 0) networks and nine EV-DO Revision A (Rev. A) networks.
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