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Carriers Look to Define the Future

Seven of the world's largest wireless operators have banded together to try and define the next generation of wireless communications.

China Mobile Communications Corp. , KPN Mobile , NTT DoCoMo Inc. (NYSE: DCM), Orange SA (London/Paris: OGE), Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S), T-Mobile International AG , and Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) said Thursday night that they have formed a company called the Next Generation Mobile Networks (NGMN) initiative, which will examine how to move beyond current third generation networks.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) defines "4G" as network technology with throughput of 100 Mbit/s or more. The NGMN says in a statement that it intends to "provide an evolutionary path for the next generation of mobile networks beyond HSPA and EVDO."

The majority of the group consists of global GSM operators, with Sprint Nextel standing out as the sole CDMA operator in the pack. Sprint has, of course, already started to talk up its next generation plans with its move to mobile WiMax in 2008. (See Sprint Goes WiMax and A Giant Leap Towards 4G.)

Sprint partner Samsung Corp. , however, is the only company that has demonstrated networking technology that actually conforms to the ITU standard for 4G. (See Samsung: 4G Speed King.)

Local Reports, however, say that WiBro -- the technology that Samsung is using the basis of its 4G push -- has seen slow take-up since its launch in June. Operators KT Corp. and SK Telecom (Nasdaq: SKM) had only signed up a few hundred customers by the end of August. The slow start was blamed on poor WiBro coverage and the lack of compatible handsets for the service.

These are all issues that the NGMN initiative will likely need to address as it tries to lay out the basics for 4G. — Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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