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HTA - THE RACE FOR 3G

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    Story from this morning's COMMUNICATIONS DAY (Duncan Craig):

    Telstra may still be first out of the blocks in 3G race
    with major CDMA upgrade

    Telstra appears to be moving closer to a decision about transforming its CDMA network into a 3G-like national network in the next few months as it eyes an opportunity to head off Hutchison Telecommunications
    Australia’s billion-dollar bet on its own network.
    Hutchison is due to turn on its 3G network at the end of the year, but many industry insiders say Telstra is readying itself for an onslaught that
    will turn Hutchison’s claims to having the so-called first-mover advantage
    on its head.

    The head of Qualcomm Southeast Asia Marshall Towe told CommsDay he believes Telstra needs to only
    invest $100 million in upgrading its base station transmitters in order to get 99% national coverage.

    Such a
    scenario would pose a serious threat to Hutchison’s plans to spend up to $3 billion over five years on its network
    rollout.

    Qualcomm owns the CDMA world through its chipsets, systems and software and is keen to boost the
    number of carriers migrating to the faster speed environment. However, Telstra has declined to reveal the costs
    of migrating its CDMA network to the faster speed 1x standard, though it indicated the costs would be a little
    higher.

    “You don’t get very much for $100 million but we can completely upgrade our existing CDMA system,” Telstra
    group manager, mobile products Greg Young said. He pointed to the costs of sending staff out to all the base
    stations to upgrade the gear. However, it is expected to be much less than $400 million.

    Hutchison has opted for a wideband-CDMA system, while Telstra is now currently in intense discussions with
    Qualcomm about the network coverage issues surrounding a full launch of CDMA1x in Australia.

    Telstra also believes the WCDMA system is expensive to deploy in that spectrum range and prefers the cost
    economics of an 800MHz frequency, which CDMA1x supports.

    Young is a member of the global CDMA Development Group and is clearly keen to deploy the solution, though
    he said a solid business case has to be presented to the Telstra board, which is yet to happen. Telstra is also
    showing some caution in adopting the CDMA 1x standard because of the disappointing take-up of GPRS, which
    has seen only “tens of thousands” of handsets sold in the Australian market.

    The carrier is also undertaking a trial in Melbourne of Qualcomm’s wireless application platform BREW, a
    system that allows an open system for application developers. That trial has been running for a couple of
    months and is examining the interaction between the network and devices, coverage issues and network
    performance.

    Young also said it was “early days” for Telstra to consider using Qualcomm’s CDMA1x higher-speed data only
    systems, EV-DO and EV-DV. In the US, Verizon Wireless has just announced it will deploy EV-DO, while
    Japanese CDMA operator KDDI plans to use EV-DO as a wired line broadband substitute next year. Telecom
    NZ executives recently met with KDDI executives to look at what the Japanese are planning to do in the future.
 
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