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QUALCOMM Pushes Forward with 3G Products

While skepticism about the viability of 3G products and services in the near future abounds, companies such as Code Multiple Division Access (CDMA) purveyor QUALCOMM Inc. continue undaunted to architect for the new technologies.

Specifically, Monday Qualcomm rolled out a shipment of the MSM5100 Mobile Station chipsets, including the release of the QUALCOMM CDMA Technologies (QCT) Dual-Mode Subscriber Software (DMSS) technology and Subscriber Unit Reference (SURF) development platform and the gpsOne solution -- all of which are part of the company's goal to create hybrid GPS-based services.

Importantly, the gpsOne solution will meet the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requirement for wireless operators to provide the location of 911 calls (E9-1-1), according to Qualcomm. The MSM5100 solution also enables a broad range of future 3G GPS-related software and services, including navigation information, weather forecasts, traffic reports and commercial tracking services, as well as a broad range of entertainment applications.

The FCC has been the source of most of the doubt surrounding 3G advancements, as the organization has expressed concern that there is not enough spectrum to cover the proliferation of millions of 3G-enabled handsets. This is unfortunate if you're in the business of making sure wireless communications, as is the case for Qualcomm snd Sprint PCS, goes forward. In fact, fueled by concerns that people who use cell phones to call 911 in case of emergencies cannot be located, the FCC has laid down the law by forcing carriers and handset makers to figure out how to handle the 911 location issue by October 1, 2001; that stretches back to 1996.

The issue is that people using cell phones are on the move, and their numbers don't correspond to fixed addresses, as they do to for houses or businesses. Some wireless providers can now provide locations within broad ranges, from city blocks to miles in rural areas, and callback numbers.

Allen Nogee, senior analyst with Cahners In-Stat's wireless technology service, said to meet Phase II standards as the FCC has dubbed them, carriers are free to chose from deploying a network-based technology or a handset-based technology as long as they meet certain accuracy requirements spelled out by the FCC.

To target a more precise location, they need to add new technology; the least precise option would still give public safety personnel location information that is within about 328 feet of the caller 67 percent of the time and within about 984 feet 95 percent of the time.

"A network solution would require carriers to add network equipment to their infrastructure that determines caller location and is compatible with existing handsets in use," Nogee said in a recent report. "With a handset solution, minimal network changes are required, but carriers must start offering new subscribers location-enabled handsets this year. 95% of their subscriber base must have location-based handsets by the end of 2005.

The mandate has really put handset makers under the gun, as they are concerned that GPS enabled handsets will be more expensive to produce and that consumers won't shell out extra money seeing as millions of people already own handsets, Nogee said.

The In-Stat study also found that for carriers using handset technology, Global Positioning System (GPS) stands out as being the most popular choice while a combination of Time Difference of Arrival (TDOA) and Angle of Arrival(AOA)is the most popular for carriers rolling out a network-based system.

The Strategis Group said Monday it feels enhanced wireless communications services will come to fruition, but perhaps not as soon as many of the carriers and handset makers seem to think.

The Strategis Group, which believes 3G services will go live by 2004, estimates that the U.S. will have over 200 million wireless subscribers, 67 percent of which will be users of next-generation wireless data services that require additional spectrum to deliver.

"Although initially consumers are demanding simple, personalized low-speed services, we find there to be budding demand for high-speed services that will require more spectrum," said Jeffrey Chang, analyst with The Strategis Group. "Add this to the ever-increasing voice traffic on wireless networks and we'll see a real need for additional spectrum extremely fast."

Monday's releases from Qualcomm are a sliver of the company's strategy to create hybrid systems as approaches to helping call center representatives, as well as law enforcement and EMT technicians, quickly locate people in emergency situations.

Hybrid solutions use both network-based and GPS-based information to provide all-terrain solution coverage including indoor, outdoor, urban and rural operation. gpsOne technology is an example of a hybrid solution. In addition, the QCT gpsOne solution uses patented Assisted-GPS technology to enhance receiver sensitivity, and thereby provide indoor GPS measurements. The drawbacks of hybrid systems? Greater processing requirements in handsets and increased network costs.

The other two technologies carriers and handset makers are implementing include Global Positioning System and network-based positioning. GPS uses the U.S. Department of Defense's (DoD) satellite-based radio navigation system to determine cell phone locations based on GPS satellites. This system typically requires at least four satellites to provide a position fix. Outdoor fixes can be extremely accurate although most GPS receivers do not work indoors or in areas of signal blockage.

In network positioning, a cell-site-based system that triangulates the mobile user's location using handset signals received by a minimum of three cell towers, or a measurement of at least three cell site signals (such as pilots).

Typical network-based solutions do not provide altitude information due to multi-path and terrestrial signal blockage and are less accurate than GPS in general outdoor conditions. However, network-based solutions have better indoor penetration than most unassisted GPS-based solutions.

Qualcomm's new chipsets make use of the company's flagship technology, CDMA, the boon of which is well documented, and what Qualcomm refers to as the "backbone of all 3G and future wireless technologies." CDMA uses power control to monitor the amount of power systems and handsets need. CDMA handsets typically transmit at the lowest power levels in the industry, allowing for longer battery life which results in longer talk time and standby time.

As for specifications, Qualcomm's MSM5100 integrated circuit and system software, along with components of QCT's Wireless Internet Launchpad suite of advanced technologies, provide handset manufacturers and third-generation 1x system operators with the ability to deliver the highest level of integration for 3G handsets and quickly roll out new 3G services to their subscribers.

The MSM5100 integrated circuit and system software solution supports data rates of up to 307 kilobits per second (kbps) in the forward link. Capable of providing up to a 50 percent increase in standby times, and up to twice the overall capacity for voice of IS-95A/B systems, the MSM5100 solution will allow manufacturers to develop 3G handsets that feature the most complete set of positioning, multimedia and other advanced features available in the wireless industry.

The MSM5100 solution incorporates QCT's Wireless Internet Launchpad suite, enabling a broad range of new terminal products, applications and Internet services, including gpsOne position location solution and Bluetooth(TM), as well as multimedia features such as Qtunes Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG-1) Layer-3 (MP3) player software and Compact Media Extension (CMX(TM)) Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI)-based multimedia software. The MSM5100 device also supports the Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless (BREW) applications platform.

The MSM5100 integrated circuit also works with Bluetooth, by providing a solution to integrate Bluetooth digital baseband processing into a comprehensive 3G CDMA integrated circuit and system software solution.

The MSM5100 solution is available in a 208-ball Fine-Pitch Ball Grid Array (FBGA) production package, and is pin-compatible with the MSM3300 IS-95A/B integrated circuit, which will enable handset manufacturers to reduce the time-to-market for highly integrated and feature rich 3G CDMA2000 handsets as 3G networks and services are being rolled out.