The result surprised nobody, but the widespread support from the operators for WCDMA was seen as important; as Beijer says, “After all, they were the customers”.
Jan Uddenfeldt and Yrjö Neuvo, his colleague from Nokia, were waiting in the wings at the hotel in Paris. Now they worked out a compromise proposal, written by hand on a conference notepad by Sandegren and Ahava, which included some features of Siemens’ TDMA-CDMA. The compromise was formulated so that nobody would have to lose face.
Uddenfeldt says: “Yrjö and I had discussed this with Siemens in advance. We had agreed with our colleague from Siemens, Walter Konhäuser, that he would come to our conference room at a certain time if we could not get enough support for WCDMA at the ETSI meeting. Fifteen minutes before the time came, Konhäuser rang me and said that he and all the other manufacturers were prepared to sign. ‘That would be great,’ was our answer.
“We had expected that Siemens would be ready to sign, but in marched people from Alcatel, Nortel, Motorola and others. We had to add a few lines to our prepared compromise proposal but we did so without protest, of course.”
Persson says: “The capitulation was both a remarkable and at the same time powerful experience. It all happened much more easily and quickly than we had dared hope, and the sight of our former opponents stepping into the room one after one is unforgettable.”
“THE NIGHT OF THE LONG KNIVES”
At eight o’clock that evening, an unofficial meeting began in which all the representatives of the manufacturers behind the Alpha and Delta proposals met the SMG chairman, Friedhelm Hillebrand. Gunnar Sandegren took part on Ericsson’s behalf. This meeting has gone down in history as the “The Night of the Long Knives,” a description Sandegren describes as apt.
One important detail is that Uddenfeldt, Neuvo and Konhäuser confirmed that the agreement was an accurate reflection of the standpoints adopted by their companies.
When the SMG meeting reconvened the following morning, Hillebrand allowed a round of intensive questions, responses and clarifications. The new 3G standard was then adopted unanimously.
WCDMA was accepted as ETSI’s 3G standard for all of the dominant elements of the frequency band (known as the paired band which comprised 2x60 MHz). TDMA-CDMA became the standard for the unpaired “TDD band” and has still not yet been implemented in any European country.
In addition to ETSI, its counterpart in Japan, the standardization body ARIB, agreed on the same standard as did later the standardization bodies in China and South Korea. Because WCDMA could be based on the existing core network in Japan, this meant that the entire GSM industry could migrate naturally to 3G. Apart from a few small states, GSM was already in place in 1998 in every country but Japan and South Korea.
“On January 29, 1998, there were champagne toasts at both Ericsson and Nokia,” says Nina Eldh, who was then working at Nokia’s information office in Brussels.
SHARE PRICE HADE RISEN
When Uddenfeldt and his colleagues returned to Sweden, they could see that the Ericsson share price had already risen noticeably.
In contrast with the GSM agreement in 1987, the media now showed much greater interest in standardization issues. For example Sweden’s Elektroniktidningen magazine wrote that Ericsson and Nokia had beaten Siemens:
“Incredible amounts, hundreds of billions of kronor, are at stake for Ericsson and its competitors when the telephone companies begin to extend these networks in a few years. That is why the struggle has been so intense. The decision that has now been made in the ETSI standardization body is described on paper as a compromise but in fact it means more or less a total victory for the Wideband CDMA advocated by Ericsson and Nokia.”
“I believe that WCDMA will be a hit all over the world,” was Uddenfeldt’s comment in the magazine, which also noted that now for the first time Europe and Japan would share a standard for mobile telephone networks.
Author: Svenolof Karlsson & Anders Lugn