Totaling 120 3G/UMTS licenses granted in 40 countries, 46 networks already operating commercially in 24 countries, and over 10 networks operating in a pre-commercial phase, the president of the UMTS Forum, Jean-Pierre Bienaim, during his participation in Futurecom 2004, backed global standardization as the key to the commercial success of 3G, stating that 3G/UMTS will be by far the predominant system all over the world because practically the absolute majority of the licensed carriers have chosen it. The growth of 3G/UMTS is supported by an increasing number of cellular handsets and PCMCIA cards (cards for laptops), there currently being over 75 models already launched or announced.
Commenting on the option for some countries for hardly-standardized solutions, which might even gain momentum but which invariably end up by losing on price and quality due to the lack of worldwide scale, the president of the UMTS Forum stressed that the market success of the standard defended by the entity will be more evident in 2005, when it will become more difficult for any other advanced standard to compete in terms of price and quality.
The proposition of the UMTS Forum, stated Bienaim, is for there to be a complete mobile system which is economically profitable, with wide network area coverage, with the support of a varied range of services and applications optimized for entirely mobile environments. The UMTS system will be universally standardized via 3GPP, using a globally harmonized spectrum, on regular bands, as recommended by the ITU. Besides this, it offers levels of speed up to 384kbps per user on the move (with quality), and up to 2Mbps in stationary use, support for international roaming, a high level of security, billing, and also a clearly defined route for 14Mbps (HSDPA - High Speed Downlink Packet Access), provided by the 5 MHz bandwidth carrier only available in UMTS.
"3G/UMTS allows significant gains in the costs per unit of traffic, especially in intense-use environments", said Bienaim.
Currently eight out of the ten biggest mobile carriers on the planet (China Mobile, Vodafone, T-Mobile, Orange, NTT DoCoMo, TIM, Telefnica and Cingular) have chosen to implant 3G/UMTS, and just one, Verizon Wireless, has opted for another solution, CDMA2000.
He also stressed specific situations, such as the case of the USA, where the market opted initially for CDMA due to the narrower bands, and Korea for reasons of an industrial nature. But the situation has been turning around. In the USA, with the large growth of GSM, AT&T Wireless upgraded its own GSM network to UMTS, launched in 6 cities in the country, followed by Cingular, which has announced its commitment to upgrade its network to UMTS/HSDPA.
In Korea, at the beginning of this year the two biggest carriers (SKT and KTF) began their respective pre-commercial UMTS/WCDMA operations in the context of a national policy to promote the development of information technologies (IT839 strategy).
Bienaim further commented on the situation in China which, with over 260 million GSM users, representing 93% of total Chinese mobile turnover, is already sending out signals that, when the time is right, it will grant 3G licenses based on the successful piloting of 3G technologies, where UMTS will represent the biggest part.
According to the UMTS Forum, these cases clearly demonstrate that the UMTS system standardized by 3GPP has been gaining ground even in countries with varied technological options.
In the short period since its launch by NTT DoCoMo in October 2001, therefore in three years, 3G/UMTS is already used by over 11 million consumers. By the end of this year the number of 3G/UMTS carriers in operation all over the world will reach 70, representing a much faster growth curve than seen with GSM when it was launched in the 1990s.
"Although the initial implantation of the large majority of the 3G/UMTS networks has occurred mainly in highly industrialized countries, UMTS networks have also been put in operation in emerging countries, such as Estonia, the Czech Republic, Malaysia, and Croatia", added the president of the UMTS Forum. Based on these facts he believes that Brazil, which has already allocated spectrum in IMT2000 frequency bands in Latin America, could be the first country to license 3G/UMTS, which could happen in 2005, for progressive deployment initially in urban areas - a recommendation already forwarded to the Brazilian authorities by Bienaim himself on recent visits to Anatel (the National telecommunications Agency) and the Ministry of Communications.
3G/UMTS allows current GSM carriers a marked reduction in the system's implantation costs compared with deployment from zero, especially in the reusing of existing infrastructure, the use of dual-mode stations from the same central network platform, and the possibility of the gradual implantation of true 3G services.
Speaking of the concrete experiences with 3G/UMTS all over the world, the president of the UMTS Forum stated that they include real time video-telephony services, a multimedia in-box, high quality streaming audio and video, on-line games, mobile TV services, user-defined alert services, and public and private web-cam services. Other examples of planned services (in the short term) are instant video messaging, unified messaging, mobile intranet, and hi-fi sound.
At the same time, there will be the convergence of the global UMTS platform with global Digital TV platforms (DVB) and Digital Radio (DAB), in order to amplify the range of mobile services provided by a single terminal and by converged operations. Hence the importance of being alert so that the choice of digital TV and digital radio standards are compatible with the UMTS standard, if Brazil intends to offer its citizens converged telecommunications services - which are the most economic - that is, information technology, radio and television in one single device, and not various (triple play).
Bienaim also emphasized that, depending on the interest from the large mobile 3G carriers in the complementary technologies WiFi and WiMAX (on their respective frequencies), they could be incorporated in the global UMTS standard, enriching the business case for the carriers.
Regarding themes specific to Brazil, the vice-president of the UMTS Forum for Latin America, Mario Baumgarten, went over considerations about the issues raised by ANATEL on the likelihood of introducing a 5th license in the country, and granting 3G the status of a new service or not. Independent of the final decisions, the maintenance of the regulatory milestone defined by public consultation 198, in June 2000, was recommended.
Regarding the intense advertising campaign currently being run by CDMA in our country, the two UMTS Forum executives saw it as just a 'ploy' and a strong reaction to the forecast winning, in two and a half years, of approximately 20 million GSM subscribers, in this way set to overtake CDMA in the country. By April 2005, GSM will have won leadership of the Brazilian cellular telephony market, when it will also have overtaken the number of TDMA handsets, according to forecasts by the Brazilian GSM carriers.