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GSM, CDMA phase-out: Operators take positions

By Prince Osuagwu

Chief Executive Officer of Starcomms Plc, Mr Logan Pather, stunned his listeners last week when he hinted that the Global System for Mobile Communications, GSM, and Code Division Multiple Access, CDMA, the two telecommunication technologies presently operated by telecommunications operators in Nigeria would be phased out in the next few years.

Logan Pather

Pather, in an interactive session with journalists, adduced that these technologies would be replaced with Long_term evolution, LTE, which is an evolving fourth generation network in the world.

He noted that even some leading global telecomm operators were already test running the new network adding that Starcomms’ as a CDMA network was almost LTE ready because it only needed to change a few things in its base stations to make them LTE compliant.

 Straightening the argument

However, operators and other stakeholders have swiftly reacted to the claims, saying there was need to put the records straight.

According to MTN, there is no cause for alarm as the information could not be totally regarded as the truth. The external Communications Manager of MTN Mr Andrew Okeleke told Hi-Tech that “while LTE is mainly for data, it is expected that it should run side-by-side with the current technology platforms – CDMA and GSM” and so he did not see any reason this could raise any panic.

According to Okeleke, “as you are aware, innovation is one of our core values. Therefore, MTN will consistently explore wider opportunities that will enable us to deploy relevant technology that will enhance our service delivery”.

He said that his company will always be ahead of the curve knowing that technology is dynamic.

However, a source close to Etisalat admitted that the Mobile Telecoms technologies have been designed with an evolution path in mind, keeping all providers abreast of each version of the technology and every new upgrade to make sure they are fully ready.

The source corroborated the MTN position, saying that “3GPP Long Term Evolution (LTE) is part of the same technology tree that produced GSM/EDGE and UMTS/HSPA so it is being expected and planned for. It will be an upgrade of the UMTS/HSPA technology that is being deployed all over the world now”.

On the readiness of operators to embrace the change, the source added “ Etisalat is already deploying the latest standard of UMTS/HSPA technology. LTE is going through a series of trials, pilots and commercial acceptance that is standard in this industry. Because we will already have the latest 3G technology deployed, by the time LTE is fully standardized, Etisalat will be in a position to rapidly roll this out and upgrade our network”.

 Nothing new

Titi Omo-Ettu

Meanwhile, President of the Association of Telecom Companies of Nigeria, Engr Titi Omo-Ettu, when contacted on the development, went philosophical. Omo-Ettu’s concern was that “the GSM we have today is not the same GSM that we started business with in 2001.

When we migrate, we say we put enhancements and we moved on. Those who failed to do it are no longer on the list today and that is the real issue.

“So, the guy who said a standard will be phased out in 2015 is probably new in the market and he, perhaps, wants to be recorded to have said something that will mark him out at least in media circles. It is not anything new and it will not stop happening.

For him, “all the talk about GSM, CDMA, CWDMA, LTE are mere standards which are confined to mobile systems only. They are not big subjects when we are discussing technologies anyway.

Good, the mobile system has presented itself as the preferred system but I bet you the story may change when fibres eventually and truly go into the homes and multimedia requirements dictate that we work more than we move.

“To be prepared for the eventualities of migration to LTE is as simple as being ready to train and be flexible to bend as business vicissitudes dictate. It has not much to do with our march towards broadband campaign because to talk about broadband is to talk Technology and not technology standards.

And broadband exists both in wired and in wireless systems. Do not forget that mobile systems are essentially wireless systems, and they do not offer the resilience that wired systems offer,” he said.

 Link between the technologies

LTE is often marketed as 4G. However, the first_release LTE does not fully comply with the IMT Advanced 4G requirements. The pre_4G standard is a step toward LTE Advanced, a 4th generation standard of radio technologies designed to increase the capacity and speed of mobile telephone networks.

LTE Advanced is backwards compatible with LTE and uses the same frequency bands, while LTE is not backwards compatible with 3G systems.

GSM, originally known as Groupe Spécial Mobile, is a standard set developed by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) to describe technologies for second generation or 2G digital cellular networks.

CDMA employs spread-spectrum technology and a special coding scheme (where each transmitter is assigned a code) to allow multiple users to be multiplexed over the same physical channel.

By contrast, time division multiple access (TDMA) divides access by time, while frequency-division multiple access (FDMA) divides it by frequency. CDMA is a form of spread-spectrum signalling, since the modulated coded signal has a much higher data bandwidth than the data being communicated.

One of the basic concepts in data communication is the idea of allowing several transmitters to send information simultaneously over a single communication channel. This allows several users to share a band of frequencies. This concept is called multiple access.

Multiple access was developed as a replacement for first generation analog cellular networks. It was originally described a digital, circuit switched network optimized for full duplex voice telephony.


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