“The Biggest Challenge Is to Get the 3G Standards Done in Time for the Launch of UMTS,”

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Having
more than 120 million subscribers across the world, GSM is all set to migrate to a new
standard and radio technology. Called UMTS, the new standard will be designed to augment
and eventually supercede GSM in the first decades of the next century. Entrusted with the
responsibility for the framing of the operators’ requirements for UMTS is
Neil Lilly of Orange PCS, UK, who is the chairman of the 3G Interest Group
of GSM MoU Association. In an interview with

NC George,
Lilly talks
about the developments in 3G GSM. Excerpts:

"The Biggest
Challenge Is to Get the 3G Standards Done in Time for the Launch of UMTS,"

Neil Lilly, chairman, 3G Interest Group, GSM MoU
Association.

 

What is the road map for GSM?

GSM has been a run away success. With
almost 230 operators across the world, its spread is global and the total investment is
estimated to be of the order of $200 billion, inclusive of all networks. As far as mobile
applications are concerned, there is a huge anticipated demand for multimedia, fast web
browsing, and E-commerce, to mention just a few. These applications will require much
larger bandwidth than can be provided in GSM Phase 2+.

As far as UMTS is concerned, it is
intended to be more modular in structure than GSM, thereby facilitating further evolution
and competitive enhancements. The radio interface will be W-CDMA-based.

But there are controversies regarding the CDMA? How are
you going to over come these?

If you are referring to the
Qualcomm/Ericsson IPR issue, I am optimistic that all the controversies will be settled
soon—the GSM Association and many other organizations are seriously working towards
that end.

What is the stipulated time frame for the development of
specifications and the equipment, depending on the 3G protocol?

The biggest challenge is to get the 3G
standards done in time for the launch of UMTS in Japan in 2001 and in Europe in 2002. Once
stable standards are available, equipment could be ready within 18-24
months—manufacturer-specific protoype equipment is already being tested.

For the present GSM network to migrate to the 3G standard,
what will be the cost incurred?

The operators cannot run 3G-based
applications effectively on the existing network, so the networks need enhancing as well
as the radio equipment to make the most of 3G applications. This calls for a substantial
amount of investment. At this stage, it is not possible to give an accurate estimate.

How will GSM get ready for wireless in local loop
applications?

The third
generation technology addresses these features too. I understand some of the companies,
have displayed some prototype applications along with supporting multimedia, fast web
browsing, and E-commerce in the recently concluded GSM MoU exhibitions in New Delhi.

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