Telecom has signalled its path to the so-called third generation of mobile telephony by announcing its plans for cdmaOne digital technology.
CdmaOne is also the variant of the generic CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) radio technology chosen by AAPT, in which Telecom has built its interest recently, as well as Hutchison, OzPhone, and Telstra.
Telecom's network group general manager, David Bedford, says the adoption of CDMA in "our nearest neighbour" Australia, as well as in the US, Canada, China and Japan, was a factor in Telecom's decision.
Industry groups have been heralding Telecom's prospective adoption of CDMA since the beginning of the year, but the company has thus far only admitted to an interest in the technology, which enables high capacity, high-speed mobile data.
Telstra's $NZ363 million push into cdmaOne probably held as much sway as anything else for Telecom, which is acutely aware of the need to provide seamless trans-Tasman roaming services. Telecom CEO Rod Deane earlier this year forecast a "world phone" able to use networks anywhere in the world.
Telecom's domestic wireless rival, Vodafone, has already begun migrating some of its European GSM cellular networks to the Euro-flavour of CDMA, cdma2000, in association with Qualcomm. Until recently, cdma2000 and cdmaOne were competing and incompatible options, but a pact between Qualcomm and Telecom's chief supplier, Ericsson, in April allowed for cross-licensing of patents and has greatly increased the prospects of a single CDMA standard.
Bedford says Telecom will continue to invest in its existing D-AMPS and analogue network in conjunction with Ericsson.
"Virtually all cellular technology paths lead to CDMA including GSM. Our existing digital network provides a high quality voice service," says Bedford. "But we need to ensure that in the future our cellular network meets all the requirements of our customers, including the need for high-speed, quality mobile data."
Deane was bullish talking to Unlimited magazine in April, predicting that "it won’t be long before you see as great an array of services on cellular as there are on fixed line. We’re going see a much more extensive use of the cellular networks for fast data traffic. Integration with computers and small hand held is devices going to become very important."
Beford says Telecom plans to commercially launch cdmaOne in early 2001 and customers will be migrated onto the cdmaOne network "as is convenient to them".
"Meanwhile, customers can be assured that our existing networks will be fully operational and our CDPD network currently provides the only packet cellular data service available. The transition to CDMA is being designed to be as smooth as possible, by providing customers with an attractive upgrade path to CDMA. Existing customer services, including Pre-Paid will be able to be supported on the new network. A wide range of phones will also be available from world-renowned brands.
"For the provision of CDMA technology, Telecom will be commencing negotiations with prospective vendors soon."