When news of the new NMT plans was released, Freese invited the Swedish 3G operators to cooperate. The interest was mutual, because the operators had a long way to go in establishing networks that complied with the conditions laid down in their licenses. In June 2005, Hi3G and the then Vodafone Sweden (formerly Europolitan) requested an amendment to allow alternative 3G technologies in the sparsely populated areas of Sweden – in other words CDMA2000 technology in the 450 MHz band.In this way, Vodafone explained, the extension of the 3G network still required would be “assured” via national roaming with Nordisk Mobiltelefon as the operator.

PTS rejected the request in October 2005. The 3G operators were required to go on extending 3G in Sweden “with no impairment for the consumers and with the same quality for everybody”. To achieve this, the operators had to continue to use the same technology as previously, UMTS (in other words WCDMA).

However, the PTS gave the 3G operators the chance of building 3G networks with fewer base stations by reducing signal requirements in certain areas.

WIMAX SABER RATTLING

Around 2005, discussions in the WiMAX Forum began to deal with the mobile WiMAX version (802.16e). This was not an approach Ericsson supported and it decided to leave the forum.

The excitement over WiMAX did not come to an end, however. One strong argument was that the technology involved almost no patent costs. Heikki Härkönen, who designed WiMAX networks for Intel and was stationed in Kista, described the situation in Ny Teknik in June 2005:

“When someone owns a patent, you do not get the same innovative climate. That’s why we prefer a totally open market. There are going to be many different WiMAX suppliers and you will be able to shift from one to another … Open standards without patent restrictions result in many suppliers. And the more competitors there are, the lower the prices, and that raises demand.”

Two months later, however, an announcement was made that altered this situation. Qualcomm had acquired Flarion Technologies and gained control of 300 patents relating to OFDM technology. Because OFDM was used not only in Flarion’s own Flash OFDM product but also formed the nucleus of WLAN and WiMAX, these standards would probably be affected. So would WCDMA.

In Ny Teknik, journalist Mats Lewan speculated on the consequences: “Moreover, as Qualcomm is already sitting on many of the patents in the CDMA mobile technology that provides a platform for 3G in both America and Europe, Qualcomm has now got its hands on all future mobile technology. What is more, WiMAX, which is supported by Intel, Nokia, Motorola and so on, might face problems. The basic idea of WiMAX was to make the technology as free from patents and licenses as possible to get the market going. Now, these prospects may have fizzled out.”

Within Ericsson, Qualcomm’s Flarion deal was seen largely as saber rattling. For example, Ericsson had far more OFDM-based patents than Qualcomm had, even after the acquisition. 

Author: Svenolof Karlsson & Anders Lugn

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