The rest of the world knew nothing about what was going on between Ericsson and Qualcomm.

The threatened trade war between the US and Europe attracted all the more attention, however. Beijer recounts: “The Operators Harmonization Group was a catastrophic invention of Qualcomm partisans among the American operators and aimed to try to transform WCDMA into CDMA2000. European operators participated in order to disrupt things. Despite its name, the OHG was probably the most disharmonious group ever. T-Mobile in Germany had decided to try to enter the American market and flirted outrageously with American operators in the CDMA camp.”

It was a “farce”, says Beijer, but it finally reached the point when the meager results that had been achieved within the OHG were hailed as an agreement in the Transatlantic Business Dialog (TABD). This is a forum where American and European industrialists and leading public officials from the US and the EU can meet in order to resolve transatlantic trade disputes.

The TABD meeting in Charlotte in the US on February 17, 1999, meant that various 3G solutions could be developed and chosen without restriction under an “umbrella” called IMT-2000 (International Mobile Telecommunications-2000), which was to include one of the three CDMA technologies: CDMA2000, WCDMA and TDMA-CDMA. Nobody then need lose face.

In March 1999, the ITU accepted this overall umbrella solution. Uddenfeldt says: “The patent agreement and Ericsson’s and Qualcomm’s mutual recognition of each other’s technology came at just the right time. I remember sitting in a hotel on Park Avenue in New York communicating with Mats Nilsson when he was involved in discussing this issue at the ITU meeting.”

IMT-FAMILY

Beijer adds: “This way of doing things meant that the ITU did not have to make a decision involving detailed specifications. It was Fred [Hillebrand] who had the stroke of genius of calling the different technologies the IMT-2000 family.” Beijer also gives credit, however, for the acronym IMT to Edgar Lyksell from Telia. The way IMT alluded to NMT was not pointed out.

When a major conference in Tokyo came to an end a few months later, the last doubts were finally put to rest. The delegates there had foreseen a major battle between representatives of Ericsson and Qualcomm. Instead Uddenfeldt and Qualcomm’s president Rich Sulpizio surprised everyone with exactly the same message. Then it became clear that the question marks about 3G had been eliminated and that the technology was now to become a reality.

As a result the two 3G worlds united under their two umbrella organizations, 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project) based on UMTS and 3GPP2 based on CDMA2000. In both cases the intention was to produce specifications for third-generation mobile telephone systems in areas such as radio access, core networks, terminals, services and system features.

Subsequently the specifications for 3G have been extended by a number of “releases” from the two organizations; these have provided solutions with increasing data-transfer rates.

 

Author: Svenolof Karlsson & Anders Lugn

© Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson and Centre for Business History

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