Efficiency gains

Pertti Johansson, Qualcomm's president for Middle East and Africa, tells CommsMEA about the technology in tomorrow's mobile devices.

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By  Administrator Published  September 22, 2008

Pertti Johansson, Qualcomm's president for Middle East and Africa, tells CommsMEA about the technology in tomorrow's mobile devices.

How significant has Qualcomm been in the development of CDMA technology?

We are often called a pioneer in the CDMA technology; it is nothing new, and was deployed in the military years ago but we adopted it and developed it for commercial use.

We were pushing it at a time that other people did not believe in it. We had to invest in the infrastructure, building base stations and switches as well as handsets, both businesses which we subsequently sold off once the technology was proved and widely adopted by operators worldwide.

This was really the IS95 technology, and then it evolved over time to CDMA 2000, then it became 1X which added a data component to it. Further enhanced data would be EV-DO, REV-O, REV-A, and now moving towards REV-B.

The other flavour of CDMA, called wide-band CDMA is a standard which was created by 3GPP, which is the evolution of the GSM standard. 3GPP adopted a slightly different flavour of CDMA called wide-band CDMA as their 3G evolution for the GSM.  Qualcomm has been a major contributor to the technology, and to the standardization process.

What's the advantage of wideband CDMA over other standards?

Operators are making a lot of money, they offer an awesome capability and that is really what's different about 3G, period. It offers people the freedom of computing whether they are nomadic or on the move, whether it is a laptop data card or whether it is a smart phone sporting a Windows operating system, or whether it be a fixed wireless terminal in the developing countries where it offers low cost voice and high speed data.

How is the network rollout in Africa going?

Internet penetration in Africa is very low because the fixed-line penetration is very low, maybe less. I think the average is about 50 million fixed phones for a population of 900 million people. Only a small part of those phones can take ADSL modems.

The broadband penetration is even less, about 1% of the population whereas in Western Europe OECD countries, it is more like 30%. We see this as an awesome opportunity in Africa for operators to capitalise on this business and the governments to benefit immensely. This is enabling business and GDP growth in Africa, and operators are making incredible amounts of money from internet services.

There are 94 CDMA operators in the MENA region. There are multiple operators in most countries, and it seems like they are licencing different spectrums.

Are there any spectrum or capacity issues?

Africa alone has something in the region of 250 million subscriptions and we expect this to double in the next two or three years, and it will probably grow even faster than that.

There is an abundance of spectrum available and all of these different networks - there is no question of the networks not being able to cope.

They can handle a lot more. The CDMA technologies are far more spectrally efficient than GSM. For the same amount of spectrum you can put six to eight times more subscribers on CDMA.

Do you think CDMA will take over from GSM?

I wouldn't necessarily say that CDMA is going to overtake GSM, but I would say 3G will eventually replace GSM because of the more spectral efficient networks which allow you to put in more capacity which allows you to reduce your cost, and then you have the richness of mobile data services which comes with the 3G so these are the reasons why 3G is becoming so popular.

How involved has Qualcomm been in developing technology for mobile TV?

We had a vision five years ago and we bought the spectrum - one analogue TV channel throughout the country, channel 55, and at the same time we developed MediaFLO. It is efficient, built from the ground up for mobile use, whereas competing technology such as DVB-H is older. MediaFLO guarantees four hours of TV viewing and channel change in 1.5 to 2 second, far quicker than DVB-H.

We invested a US$800 million in building this network. We aggregate the content, build the towers and we offer this as a wholesale service to the mobile operators.

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