What? Wireless telecom leaders in Asia are beating the drums about fourth generation (4G) cellular networks when we can't even get 3G systems off the ground yet?
There seems to be a timing mismatch, but you can credit the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) for this.
Right now, the vaunted global third generation (3G) wireless phone launch is sputtering. Rollouts in Japan, Korea, Europe, and China have been pushed back. Even the interim so-called 2.5G GPRS with faster speed and higher bandwidth has been slower to market than proponents hoped. And the current generation GPS and CDMA cellular market is in a profound slump.
So why is the Asian wireless industry right now trumpeting Generation 4 (4G) plans? The reason, of course, is that the International Telecommunications Union keeps its own timetable for adopting next generation wireless standards. And the schedule has long been set in concrete for starting to look at G4 proposals.
The labored ITU process to adopt a new wireless standard is a marathon. Just look at long it took to thrash out the IMT 2000 global standard that kicks off G3, whenever that market develops.
Wireless Japan Inc. this week is stoking the fires for a 4G proposal with speeds up to 100-Megabits/second that will be presented to the ITU. The Koreans have asked to join in the Japanese 4G effort.
China reportedly is preparing its own 4G proposal, an outgrowth of its current TDS-CDMA 3G technology. After all, Chinese leaders expect by 2010 when the final 4G standard is adopted that country will have the largest wireless phone market in the world. They figure that gives them quite a bit of clout when China asserts itself in the global telecom club.
Sources said Chinese wireless authorities never seriously thought their 3G TDS-CDMA proposal, a latecomer, had much a chance against the European, Japanese and U.S. juggernauts. But it set the stage and got China in the ITU door for a much more serious bid in the 4G Olympics.
Outside the Orient, the entrenched European and U.S. wireless forces will have a new go at each other in the 4G battle. The two nearly killed the ITU IMT 2000 3G effort which only survived by essentially sanctioning the separate EuropeanWideband-CDMA and the U.S. CDMA-2000 standard fathered by Qualcomm Inc.
And what does all the 4G jockeying to get pole position at the ITU Raceway mean to OEMs and their supply chain vendors, and to the wireless operators already deeply in hock building out their current networks?
Probably not much to a lot of wireless participants. Right now companies have their hands full just trying to meet their sales and profit numbers with current technology systems. 4G
standards a decade out take back seat to immediate crises.
The 4G Elite Forces will do their thing in the coming years. The rest of us can follow the battle communiques to find out what's happening on the ITU front lines.