Diplomacy required

Advanced diplomacy was required to avoid a rupture in Madeira. Salvation came in the form of Stephen Temple, who had become the British representative in the “gang of four” in 1986. His solution was called “working assumptions”. These stated that the Madeira meeting did not have to nominate the winning candidate, but could decide instead to move forward on the basis of a working hypothesis – which would allow details that could mean improvements to be included later.

Haug says: “In this way, the French and German representatives could save their own skins. We could agree to decide that – ‘temporarily’ – we would continue our work on the basis of a narrowband solution.”


The Germans then conducted a systematic analysis on their own territory – in Darmstadt, February 24–25, 1987 – of the advantages and drawbacks of the two technologies. Uddenfeldt and Gunnar Sandegren from ERA took part – invited as experts by Siemens, which had not taken part in the Paris trials but which now wanted to sign up as a supporter of the narrowband alternative.

In the background was a cooperation agreement negotiated between Ericsson and Siemens. For Ericsson, the main aim was to find some way of doing business with the national German telecommunications agency, which was part of Deutsche Bundepost. For Siemens the prime interest was to learn more about mobile technology.

Ulf J. Johansson recalls: “The initiative came from Siemens, which had realized during the discussions on standards that Ericsson possessed unique expertise in digital radio communication. Negotiations went on for a year and were so secret that they were never held in Stockholm or Munich, where Siemens had its head office, but in a hotel in Hamburg, where we met anonymously.”

The contract that was signed was favorable for Ericsson. It was to involve, for instance, supplying thousands of base stations to Siemens for further delivery to the Bundespost, to be followed by manufacture of the stations on license by Siemens. Ericsson could, for its part, count on Siemens’ support in the GSM process.


Uddenfeldt describes a surprising meeting: “On one occasion, the head of the Siemens transmission division, Doctor Hertz, came to see us. Siemens had not taken part in the Franco-German collaboration for GSM. Now Hertz put his cards on the table and said he wanted to cooperate. We just stared at him with our mouths open.”

The session in Darmstadt put the relationship to the test. “We kept going from morning to night. Wideband and narrowband alternatives for GSM were analyzed with German thoroughness. “There were two teams, each of which was allowed to argue its own case. The director-general of the German agency was with us during the session as some kind of judge, giving points. We were sweating a bit to begin with but then we noticed that our allies at Siemens definitely did not understand the questions,” Uddenfeldt says.

With everyone speaking German, it was difficult for the Swedish experts to keep up. Uddenfeldt continues: “Thank heavens we were allowed to speak English. Eventually we realized it was 3–0 for us and we felt that we could win some more points. The other side began to get desperate and suddenly started speaking English as well, pure nervousness probably. When I got back to Sweden well after midnight I rang Ulf [Uddenfeldt’s boss, Ulf J. Johansson]. ‘It probably went all right,’ I told him.”

On March 17, the German minister of communications confirmed the outcome by declaring that Germany was also going to adopt narrowband.

Author: Svenolof Karlsson & Anders Lugn

© Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson and Centre for Business History

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