“Internet Will Drive Wireless Market In The Future”

Dr Jan Uddenfelt, vice-president, R&D, Ericsson Radio SystemsR&D is the
key to Ericsson’s success. It invests approximately 18
percent of the net sales turnover (about $3.2 billion) in R&D
and every fifth employee (more than 18,000 employees active in 23
countries) within Ericsson is working with the development tasks.
As a result of this, more than 60 percent of Ericsson’s net
sales in 1997 will have been generated by products and systems
that did not exist three years ago. Dr Jan Uddenfelt,
vice-president, R&D, Ericsson Radio Systems, was recently in
India. He is responsible for Ericsson’s world-wide R&D
for radio communications including cellular systems and cellular
phones. This R&D activity is carried out in more than 15
countries world-wide. He has been active in developing the TDMA
cellular technology for GSM standards as well as the
North-Amercian and digital cellular standards. He spoke to Satya
Prakash Singh
about the emerging wireless standards and the
driving forces behind these standards.

How do you see the global wireless scene
in the year 2000?

We believe that if you look at cellular, there
will be a very large portion of the public using it. By the year
2001, 6,000 million subscribers will be there in the world. Out
of which, GSM will constitute more than 300 million. At the same
time, we also see that Internet will have a very large number of
users. And, we believe that very many people will start to use a
combination of wireless and Internet.

If we look at the evolution of cellular, the
first generation was analog—like AMPS, TACS, and
NMT—which started in the early Eighties. Then came the
second generation in 1990s which brought in digital standards
like GSM, DCS 1800, PCS, PDS, and digital AMPS. Now, we believe,
in the year 2001, there will be a third generation standard which
will be optimized for high-speed data. We will have a lot of data
communication in the cellular. And, that will happen primarily
for Internet. In this context, there is a very important
evolution taking place, called IMT-2000.

ITU has already recommended IMT-2000. Do
you think D-AMPS and GSM systems will be able to smoothly migrate
to IMT-2000 at the same time protecting operators’
investment?

In Europe, this will start in the year 2002.
Frequency band has already been allocated here. Smooth migration,
yes, that is the whole idea. It is based on the same GSM network
with high-speed data access add-on. We still have GSM for both.
That means an operator camera can run both IMT-2000 and GSM on
the same switch co-network. Operators can use both at the same
time.

How far is IMT-2000 from where Ericsson
is today? Especially when CDMA Development Group has also
announced its support for IMT-2000 …

We have been developing experimental systems
through a number of operators in Europe and Asia. We will start
commercial system in the year 2001 and pre-commercial one year
before.

Why did Ericsson skip IS-95 CDMA? Even
after other manufacturers including Alcatel and Siemens took
licence?

Ericsson has the highest marketshare in the US.
In the mobile cellular system, we have 30 percent of marketshare
in the US. We do not say that there is no room for IS-95 as a new
standard. The problem with IS-95 is that it is voice only. We do
not see any capacity improvement with IS-95. Another important
fact is that D-AMPS has been up in running since 1992-93. Our
biggest operator in the US, AT&T, wants to have it. So, we do
not see any scope for IS-95. Rather, we have started research on
wide band CDMA. That is a better idea. CDMA is a good technology
and could stay for a long time. CDMA is a good technology if you
match the power control. Qualcomm says it will happen in 1999. We
know, this would take at least six to seven years. This
technology could mature over a period of time. Now, CDMA has come
to a level where it can be experimented and trialed.

Your W-CDMA promises sound great.
Particularly in terms of its service offerings. But, what about
hard realities like cost?

Cost, we believe, is very important. Cost is
surely quite attractive. Because, for high-speed data, one cannot
have too many base stations. Many users can share one radio
channel. From the cost point of view, W-CDMA is quite attractive
than narrow-band CDMA. But, the problem with high-speed data
communication is that, if you are not careful, you need to have a
large number of base stations than for voice communication.

Ericsson has been promoting D-AMPS a lot.
Essentially in India for WILL applications. Don’t you think
the use of CDMA and GSM by two leading mobile satellite systems
will negatively affect D-AMPS?

I think, D-AMPS in the US is clearly a
dominating digital standard. The US has 10 million subscribers
now on the D-AMP network. This is also gradually being preferred
in the Latin American countries. In Asia, this is difficult
because here, GSM has been very successful. A few Asian countries
have D-AMPS and have been widely used for WILL applications.
Inmarsat, ICO, and Geo stationary regional satellites use CDMA. I
think, that will not have adverse impact on CDMA as a cellular
standard, because the volumes in satellites are very high.

In India, we see a
good opportunity now. We started GSM here.Now ,with
IMT-2000 comming the crtical issue is that how will
frequency be allocated for IMT-2000.

What role will India play in R&D in
the next century? What are the advantages and disadvantages that
it has vis-a-vis other countries in the region to be a global
R&D base?

In India, we see a good opportunity now. We
started GSM here. Now, with IMT-2000 coming, we would work in
that area also. But the critical issue is how will frequency be
allocated in India for IMT-2000.

Major advantages in India are technical
know-how, lots of skilled people, modern software engineering,
and their English-speaking background. In many regions, one
cannot find experienced and skilled people. They may not be able
to take on the industrial responsibility. If you compare it with
China, you will get much better people here.

As far as disadvantages are concerned, lack of
infrastructure is a major concern.

What are your expectations from the
Bangalore-based Software Design Centre?

We expect it to grow to over 260 people by the
year 2000 from the present strength of 25 software engineers. The
design centre here is expected to serve as a source of trained
software specialists for Ericsson’s other Software
Development Centres in the world. 

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