AT&T Wireless takes sides

What do you do when everyone is against an idea? Eriksson had once been Ericsson’s system manager for TDMA and had become a good friend of the CTO at AT&T, Rod Nelson.

Eriksson recounts: “This offered a chance of convincing the customer via Rod. To succeed we needed cogent arguments for the benefits of EDGE. A meeting with those responsible for EDGE research gave the go-ahead to our market unit to develop the case. The next stage was for our unit to recruit two of our leading researchers in the field, Ulf Forssén and Sara Mazur, and in the winter of 1997–1998 they produced a proposal that AT&T Wireless accepted. With the customer on board, I could start chipping away at the opposition in our own ranks and finally, with Jan Uddenfeldt’s help, from the other business units in Ericsson and at Nokia.”

The rest of 1998 and the spring of 1999 were devoted to intensive standardization work in which Ericsson and AT&T Wireless played the leading roles and Sara Mazur was a key player. It was difficult because the customer had no intention of rolling out GSM but merely EDGE, in a restricted spectrum, and in dual mode with TDMA.


Mazur recalls: “Then, in the summer of 1999, the EDGE/TDMA standard was beginning to take shape. It was called EDGE Compact and its development benefited for instance from the time difference between the US and Sweden. Each evening the standardization meetings in the US could send home questions that had arisen during the day and generally the responses had already come from Kista when the meeting resumed the following day.”

At this point, AT&T Wireless came to the conclusion that if they were now putting money into EDGE they might just as well go the whole hog and invest in GSM. This would give them access to considerably more phone models, would enable them to receive roaming traffic and also offer roaming for their own subscribers around the rest of the world, where GSM was beginning to become more and more dominant,” Eriksson says.

By plumping wholeheartedly for GSM, AT&T Wireless gave itself the opportunity to follow on with WCDMA, the 3G route taken by the rest of the GSM/EDGE world. Its decision resulted in a major rise in GSM’s stock in the hitherto antagonistic US and openings for new business.

This means that EDGE Compact was in fact developed and approved even though it was never used. Another positive outcome for Sara Mazur and Ulf Forssén was, however, that they fell in love and today they have two children.

Author: Svenolof Karlsson & Anders Lugn





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