Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Qualcomm's W-CDMA/cdma2000 chipset

Once upon a time, the Europeans and Japanese that strategically allied to make a common W-CDMA standard in hopes of pre-empting the Americans and dominating the world, but that didn’t happen.

The whole global roaming argument seemed like a nonstarter, as a few people said at the time. Sure, Europeans wander around within the EU and perhaps to Mediterranean beaches, but how many go to the US or Asia? How many Americans travel enough outside North America to care about GSM (W-CDMA) coverage? I can’t imagine it’s more than 5%.

But without a single standard, there was an interest in having dual-mode phones — more from the CDMA subscriber sides than the GSM side, since there are lots of W-CDMA only countries and only a few that are exclusively or dominated by cdma2000. Thus for years, Qualcomm has been planning and now offering MSM chips that support both the W-CDMA and cdma2000 variants of 3G technology.

Reading the Financial Times last month, I saw a brief (and glowing) review of the Blackberry 8830 “World Edition”, which uses the Qualcomm chips to provide a dual mode capability. It also got a generally positive review by InfoWorld. and from CNET. Someone said that there have been other dual mode phones (presumably by LG, Samsung or Sanyo), but if there have, they have not been visibly marketed in the US.

The original US reviews were with Verizon, but now Sprint is advertising that this phone is “coming soon.” So both companies have an attractive alternative to the claims of AT&T (née Cingular) promoting world phones.

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