QUALCOMM Blurs GSM and CDMA in China

Once a champion of a pure CDMA2000 world, wireless concern QUALCOMM has been shifting its strategy of late.

The San Diego-based firm is preparing to conduct technology trials with China Unicom to develop its hybrid CDMA version of GSM technology — GSM1x.

GSM1x is QUALCOMM’s CDMA2000 1X solution for GSM operators in any band to combine the benefits of CDMA2000 1X and GSM-MAP. The technology takes an existing GSM-MAP network, maintains all key features and services with an overlay of CDMA2000 1X using a SIM-enabled dual-mode GSM/CDMA handset, facilitating both GSM and CDMA global roaming.

Using China Unicom’s CDMA2000 1X wireless network, the companies say the goal is to let China Unicom’s GSM subscribers get access the high-speed data services of and accelerate the commercial availability of GSM/CDMA dual-mode handsets.

“This trial is a significant step in the progression to the next generation of wireless services and demonstrates a cost and spectrum efficient means of providing current GSM subscribers with the benefits of CDMA2000 1X,” QUALCOMM chairman and CEO Dr. Irwin Mark Jacobs said in a statement.

The tests are building on QUALCOMM’s combined WCDMA and GSM trials in North America last year. The company has been working hard to keep its CDMA technology in the minds of handset manufacturers and developers; an arduous task given GSM’s prevalence in Europe and now in Asia.

Currently, China Unicom is the second largest wireless service provider in China with an installed base of over eight million CDMA users and 60 million GSM users. The GSM1x trial will look at the technical feasibility of GSM1x technology as an option that will let China Unicom’s existing GSM subscribers take advantage of enhanced CDMA2000 1X services, while preserving the existing GSM service layer and SIM-based subscription.

The GSM1x trial is being conducted in the city of Suzhou in the Chinese province of Jiangsu and is scheduled to begin in the second quarter of calendar year 2003.

The trial will be conducted in several stages. The initial stage will demonstrate CDMA2000 1X data service with a GSM core network and provide an environment to perform testing of dual-mode GSM/CDMA2000 1X handsets. The following stage will have an expanded scope, including various roaming scenarios between CDMA and GSM networks.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

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