China Unicom Leads CDMA

China Unicom, the country's second biggest mobile telecom operator, yesterday displayed its leadership role in the code-division-multiple-access (CDMA) world as it signed agreements with 13 other mobile operators linking their networks together.

These 13 mobile operators come from North America, South America and the Asia-Pacific region, with networks covering 60 per cent of global CDMA subscribers.

"China Unicom plays the key role in linking these firms together and the move will soon show its powerful influence in the CDMA field," said a senior official with Unicom Horizon, the CDMA subsidiary of China Unicom, who preferred to remain unnamed.

Before yesterday's linking up or roaming agreements, these firms had separate networks, which limited usage to inside the countries or regional boundaries. China Unicom has linked their networks together, which enables the subscribers to make mobile calls anywhere under the coverage of the linked network.

Roaming problems used to be one of the major barriers facing CDMA's rapid development in the world.

China Unicom, which has started construction of the country's first nationwide CDMA network, plans to attract 15 million subscribers before the end of the year.

Since the company announced its deployment of CDMA technology, the country has become the most attractive place for telecom equipment vendors as China is expected soon to surpass the United States as the top mobile market.

CDMA is said to have better transmission quality than its rival GSM (global system for mobile communications) and will be easier to transfer to the next generation communications.

"China Unicom's deployment of CDMA is a significant encouragement for the CDMA world. The company will play a leading role among other operators and influence decisions of many carriers in the region," said Paul Jacobs, executive vice-president of Qualcomm, the major patent owner for CDMA technology.

The company may also sharpen its competitive edge in the battle with China Mobile, the country's dominant mobile operator which has 78 per cent of the total 100 million mobile subscribers.

"China Unicom may get another opportunity in the development by providing mobile services with CDMA technology, as it would be almost impossible to surpass China Mobile using the GSM network," said Yang Peifang, senior researcher with the Academy of Telecommunications Research of the Ministry of Information Industry.

After the roaming agreements, all of the 14 mobile operators would probably attract more subscribers and earn more revenue from roaming charges.

"China Unicom's move will influence the whole wireless industry, as China has become the driving force for the growth of the wireless communication industry," said David Wolf, telecom analyst with consulting firm Burson Marsteller.

(China Daily 06/15/2001)

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