CDMA Battles On

The high-profile technology battle between GSM and CDMA in postwar Iraq continues to rage, with U.S. authorities still undecided on their standard of choice for nationwide wireless network rollout in the region.

Despite initial speculation that the GSM standard would be deployed -- following the award of two minor GSM-based infrastructure projects earlier this year (see MCI's Iraq Offensive and GSMA Cheers Iraq Deployment) -- no firm decision on a regional rollout for the dominant global standard has yet been made.

According to Lieutenant Colonel Ken McClellan from the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. authorities have not written off the possibility of CDMA technology being used in the rebuilding of Iraq’s wireless networks. “As far as the long-term projects involving the rebuilding of infrastructure over there are concerned, the assumption that it is yet to be decided is accurate,” he tells Unstrung. “We haven’t finalized plans to go beyond the initial projects.”

McClellan is unable to confirm when a final decision will be taken.

Recent media reports suggest that the country is to be divided into three distinct regions -- north, central, and south -- with carriers able to monopolize a single region. According to analysts, such a split could give CDMA technology the opportunity to gain a foothold in at least one area of the country.

“You cannot dismiss CDMA,” comments Paolo Pescatore, senior analyst at IDC. “There is certainly scope for the technology to be deployed.”

The choice of wireless technology in Iraq has already provoked a fierce war of words between proponents of the two competing standards.

In March, CDMA supporter and American congressman Darrell Issa riled GSM Association CEO Rob Conway with his belief that the region required the “superior U.S. technology” (CDMA), rather than the “outdated French standard” (see US Rep: Vive la CDMA! and GSMA: Back Off, Darrell! for more).

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung

spassmeister 12/4/2012 | 11:45:39 PM
re: CDMA Battles On Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. GSM is cheap and makes more sense with unlimited bandwidth, a lower budget and no future data needs...but roaming is its biggest advantage. Any other change - limited spectrum, data needs, growth path, etc., point to CDMA. If they simply provided EVERYTHING with one single network - voice and data - and wanted broadband and voice - all with the same link budget/coverage area, they would have to choose CDMA
kronjob 12/4/2012 | 11:45:30 PM
re: CDMA Battles On The good thing about the name "CDMA2000" is that it's vague enough to include 2G, 2.5G and 3G.
The bad thing about the name "CDMA2000" is that it's vague enough to include 2G, 2.5G and 3G.

The question that anyone reading this article should ask: doesn't "CDMA2000" sound like something 3-4 years old?

The CDMA2000 technology used all the 53 commercial networks is equivalent to a GSM+GPRS. It's called CDMA2000v1. The current version of CDMA2000v1 like GSM+GPRS _can_ on the "wireless data side" be bumped up to 144kbps. The vast majority of CDMA2000v1 networks do not have this capacity at present time. In the GSM+GPRS world when you bump up to 144kps it's called EDGE (EDGE is based on GSM).

CDMA2000 1xEV-DO is 3G, it's equivalent rival is? What could is it called? GSM2000? GPRS1xEV-DO? EDGEGÇÖs EDGE? Nope. Try: WCDMA, itGÇÖs a good thing they are not selling this stuff to Harry Home owner! Anyways WCDMA is 3G and itGÇÖs based on GSM.

CDMA2000 1xEV-DO can reach speeds of _up_to_ 2.4Mbit, however just like WCDMA it would require a massive amount of radio sites. The 5 operators who have deployed CDMA2000 1xEV-DO will not offer any 2.4Mbit service, they will offer video clips at 100-200kbps. The DSL connection I will use to send this very informative message is 1Mbit, hoping for 2.4Mbit to a pocket phone is day dreaming.

So yes there are more networks, more users, more usage of "CDMA2000" than WCDMA. But that's like saying there are more BMWs sold then BMW Z8. Duh?! There are more networks, more users, more usage of GSM+GPRS+EDGE+WCDMA compared to "CDMA2000". Because most networks in the world are based on GSM. I believe it's a 25%/65%/10% split between CDMA/GSM/others. The 25% for CDMA does include some basic CDMA, non-CDMA2000 networks.

And what about CDMA2000 1xEV-DO vs WCDMA? Well it's more or less a tie, barely anyone is using these networks ... voice not data is king.
jim_pacyga 12/4/2012 | 11:45:30 PM
re: CDMA Battles On Don't take this the wrong way, this is not a flame.

While it would be great if the best technology won, we have seen time and time again over the years that it rarely ever does. Beta was better than VHS, but marketing and market penetration wins and VHS kills Beta. Windows has struggled to produce a UI and reliability somewhere in the same universe as UNIX with X-Windows (and failed) but marketing and aggressive M&A of all competition allows Microsoft to invade and dominate the office space and muscle allows them exclusive OS deals with PC manufacturers. Result: Windows on most every computer and even big corps adopt it because has become the de facto standard for office documents. (In 1996 we had 10 users running builds, Word processing, etc on a single SPARC 10 yet it still is slow even on a GHz+ box to even run 10+ apps).

Sure CDMA was a better technology, I helped deploy it around the world. It has better sound quality and it has a good migration path to 3G despite some interesting system engineering issues. The trouble is GSM deployed years early ahead of the delayed CDMA availabilty (we launched the first commercial system in 1995 in Hong Kong). In that time companies begging for bandwidth efficiency had a choice, now or later and many took now (at least then). Most of Europe and the Middle East took GSM.

Having data would be great, but we can't get mobile data to take off in Europe or the US. The chances of bombed out Baghdad needing heavy duty HSPD or 1xRTT is pretty slim in the next decade or so. Spectrum probably will not be too problematic either since their is no government and most of the existing equipment has been looted. If anything it is likely that people would have GSM phones if any at all.

To Roam or Not To Roam:
You hit the nail on the head. Roaming is the key issue here. If you look at a deployment map you will have a pretty hard time finding a CDMA system (outside of a military application) in the Middle East. Therefore, even though it might be great to allow Iraq to get the better technology, it would be like binding their toes. They would have phones that would not roam (think the US market up until a few years ago - that was FRUSTRATING) or be at all compatible with neighboring countries.

Remember Iraq is a relatively small country and people cross borders all the time, not just once in a life time on holiday. To impose CDMA on Iraq would not only be a crime it would cripple them and make it harder for them to get back upright in their ecomomic environment.

If we want to put CDMA into Iraq, then build out a UTMS system with W-CDMA in the RAN. Companies are already testing dual mode (W-CDMA/GSM) handsets for European customers that would allow Iraqis to roam into the the neighboring GSM states and have perhaps one of the best systems in the world.

The trouble is, do you want to pay for it? The Iraqi's can't and 3G expertise is expensive as the equipment (both infrastructure and terminal) is now.

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