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Mobile phone standards

Written by kevin

This morning I found this article, written by a former Qualcomm employee about the struggle between GSM and Qualcomm’s IS-95 CDMA system.

Quite apart from the fact that he really doesn’t seem to know much about GSM technology (GPRS doesn’t require a separate carrier, bandwidth can be dynamically reallocated for data), it seems to be the usual American rant about how CDMA is technically superior.

This is true, CDMA makes more effective use of available bandwidth. That’s why both the European and American variants of 3G use CDMA. But that’s not the point. The reason GSM has been successful is that the phone manufacturers and networks have generally provided the public with what they want.

Very few people care if their phone uses some amazingly advanced technology, as long as they can make calls, send text messages and download horrible ringtones. None of the American networks (GSM or IS-95) had even managed to negotiate sending text messages between themselves until fairly recently. It’s the services, stupid!

Qualcomm’s monopoly on IS-95 chipset pushes up prices, the small market for IS-95 phones means that they get whizzy new features later than GSM or not at all.

OK, CDMA2000-1x may be a lot faster than GPRS, but I can read my email on my phone while relaxing in the Spanish Pyrenees or hurtling around the streets of Rome. If my phone breaks I can take out the SIM and put it in another phone without having to change numbers.

So, GSM isn’t perfect (try reading any of the standards documents!) but at least it’s better than a single-company monoculture.

Disclaimer: Of course, you realised that when I talked about reading email while hurtling around the streets of Rome I didn’t mean reading email while actually driving, didn’t you? That would be stupid.

This entry was posted on Saturday, May 31st, 2003 at 10:42 and is filed under tech.

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