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Qualcomm: Two national CDMA450 launches likely in 2008

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Operators in these countries will be emulating Telmex, which launched a national CDMA450 network in its home turf of Mexico in March this year, in association with Qualcomm.

However, in several countries full national rollout is not always practical because part of the 450MHz band is already used by other services.

Today there are at least six more commercial CDMA450 operations in the region, in the hands of America Movil unit Codetel in the Dominican Republic, Valtron in Peru, CVG in Venezuela, Etapa in Ecuador, Telesur in Surinam and BTL in Belize. There are at least another five-commercial CDMA450 networks in development in this region.

Given CDMA450's coverage characteristics - a radius of up to 80km in flat areas - it is a relatively cheap way of installing voice and broadband service in semi-urban and rural areas, which are typical of much of Latin America.

However, rollout in many countries depends on the flexibility of governments when it comes to setting norms for the technology and Qualcomm is campaigning hard to ensure that governments recognize CDMA450's benefits, Mansi said.

One aspect is Qualcomm's advice that governments allow a single operator enough of the 450MHz spectrum to ensure that broadband is part of the service - since in Mansi's opinion connectivity is something that governments should consider an essential part of digital inclusion programs that aim to provide PCs for schools.

Furthermore, the operating zones that governments work with today are not necessarily designed for technologies with such extensive coverage and operators in neighboring areas could easily end up covering each other's territory. So for the sake of efficiency it may be necessary to ensure that a single operator has rights to multiple areas, or national coverage, Mansi said. Governments in neighboring countries may even need to liaise with each other in this respect, about use of the spectrum across their borders.

3G

In the mobile growth boom of the last decade, Qualcomm gained strength as the developer of the CDMA family of technologies and is arguably responsible for introducing the concept of 3G mobile telephony - broadband over mobile - into Latin America with its CDMA2000 EV-DO platform, which in practice gives data transfer speeds of 300-600Kbps.

In the area of basic mobile telephony CDMA suffered a lot of dilution as the region's two main mobile groups, Telefonica and America Movil, both decided to migrate all their operator units to GSM. However, Qualcomm has always been confident that it will remain strong in the region as operators migrate to 3G networks, based mainly on the WCDMA technology family. WCDMA is behind the main 3G standard being rolled out in Latin America today, HSDPA, which operators in fact refer to now as 3.5G.

The first operators to launch HSDPA were Chile's Entel PCS in December 2006 and Uruguay's Ancel in May 2007. America Movil is expected to lead HSDPA migration in the region in the remaining months of 2007 and early 2008, with the Colombian unit Comcel tipped to announce a launch this month. Mansi therefore expects WCDMA handset sales in Latin America to exceed other CDMA handset sales by mid-2008.

Qualcomm enjoyed a degree of exclusivity as the maker of CDMA chipsets, but WCDMA is open to many chipset manufacturers and Qualcomm believes it has a 25% global market share for supplying them to device manufacturers.

That market share is greater when it comes to 3G cards used for PCs, probably over 50%, but mobile phones now account for the great majority of devices with WCDMA chipsets, according to Mansi.

As operators around the world launch 3G networks they have typically started by focusing on sales of cards for PCs, but it has not taken long for handset manufacturers to include the chipsets in phones, so the initial dominance of cards is always short-lived.

Operators advertise HSDPA as having average speeds of 400-700Kbps, but in certain circumstances the technology can allow speeds of several Mbps.

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Tags: telefonica  wcdma  qualcomm  entel  america movil  cdma450  cdma2000  chipsets  chipset  ev-do  latin america  450mhz