COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. In an unprecedented move, the IEEE's SA Standards Board has temporarily suspended deliberations by the 802.20 working group on mobile broadband wireless technology.
The decision comes after representatives from Intel Corp. and Motorola Inc. threatened to file formal complaints about the way the working group's chairman, Jerry Upton, allegedly handled draft proposals in favor of Qualcomm Inc. and Kyocera Inc.
Upton referred all press inquiries to Steve Mills, chairman of the standards board. In an email, Mills said that Upton had confirmed to the IEEE that he did indeed have a relationship with Qualcomm.
As for reports that Qualcomm had earlier brought in several people to meetings in order to form a majority, Mills said that the board "is not disclosing the details of its investigation at this time."
In general, Mills observed, independent consultants are invited to participate in 802 meetings, "within the spirit and intent" of the standards development process.
The suspension is effective from Thursday (June 15) to Oct. 1, resulting in the cancellation of an 802.20 plenary meeting in July and an interim meeting in September.
In a statement, the IEEE said the suspension will "give the Standards Board time to consider the pending appeals [and possible additional actions independent of the appeals]."
The 802.20 group has been under a cloud for the last three years as Qualcomm reportedly made at least three efforts to influence the voting process on standards and torpedo a proposal for an orthogonal frequency-division modulaton-based standard by Flarion Inc. This process culminated last August in Qualcomm's acquisition of Flarion for $600 million.
Since then, several working group members have alleged that Upton, though listed as an "independent consultant," has been paid by Qualcomm. During the last three 802 general meetings, IEEE's LAN/MAN group board has tried to tighten rules for independent consultants attending meetings as a way to avoid similar problems in the future.
A Qualcomm spokesman said late Thursday that the company would not comment on relations with independent consultants, but said regarding voting members of the working group: "Since the IEEE operates on a one-person, one-vote basis, it is not uncommon for companies to bring people to a working group, and what has been alleged for 802.20 has been evident in many 802 organizations."
Regarding draft proposals, the Qualcomm spokesman added that only two fully-defined proposals were considered by the working group at the end of 2005, one from Qualcomm and another joint proposal from Qualcomm and Kyocera. Other full-blown proposals had not been introduced prior to the complaints at the beginning of this year.
One source involved in the deliberations said companies that have lodged complaints were active in 802.16e, and that the current dispute may in part revolve around continuing debate over the appropriate role of mobile broadband in 802.16e and 802.20.