Letter To The Editor

Published: October 31st, 2002

Re. “Argument for 3G dominance riddled with confusion,” Oct. 4, page 12: It is a lot easier to understand 3G if you realize that it is just a continuation of the ego-driven technology wars of the early 1990s. Back then, TDMA won out over FDMA, only to find an upstart, CDMA, attempting to claim the crown of the single, North American, digital system. Companies and, more importantly, technical experts within those companies, took sides, and their choice of technology became inseparable from their personalities (and considerable egos).

AT&T spent years, for example, trashing CDMA and promoting TDMA through the now-defunct UWC. So, to a lesser extent, did Rogers and Cingular. They burned their bridges so thoroughly that, when they realized that TDMA was not going to survive as a 3G system, their past statements left them no choice but to adopt the somewhat cumbersome GSM/GPRS/EDGE/W-CDMA evolutionary path. Ironically, at the end of that path they still must embrace CDMA, but this way they can claim that they were right in the early ’90s when they rejected it.

It is ironic that W-CDMA proponents are fighting verbal battles over whether CDMA2000 is really 3G or not, because it was these same companies who, as TDMA proponents, expropriated the term PCS. This was intended to identify the 1800 MHz frequency systems turned on in the mid-1990s, but was quickly adopted by AT&T, Rogers and others to identify TDMA systems mostly running in cellular frequencies. Consumers knew that PCS was cool back then, so every carrier wanted to use the term. Now, consumers know that 3G is way cool. What easier way to do that than to stick a 3G label on your existing system, while claiming that your competitor is a lying SOB to do the same?

David Crowe


Cellular Networking Perspectives Ltd.

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