Seoul, Dec. 13: SMS, MMS, porn on mobile phones: welcome to the world of CDMA technology in South Korea.
South Korea is CDMA country—its three telecom operators offer a feature-rich range of value-added services on the code division multiple access (CDMA) technology that much of the world has balked at.
Most of the world’s cellular operators offer the Europe-driven GSM (global system of mobile) communications technology including India’s cellular operators.
But with Reliance Infocom set to roll out its limited mobility service on December 28, it seems a great idea to get a preview of what CDMA can really offer. It’s an eye-popping range—short messaging services (SMS), multimedia messaging services (MMS) and two-minute downloads of XXX movies.
Unfortunately, Reliance’s limited service won’t be as tantalising. Blame it on the government’s policy governing the offer of limited mobility services by basic telephony operators like Reliance.
Reliance Infocom will not be able to offer any of these services since it has chosen a two-year-old version of CDMA (CDMA20001X) developed by Santiago-based company Qualcomm and has opted for CDMA technology to give limited mobility in accordance with the fixed lines service licence. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) is yet to allow these value-added services through wireless in local loop (WiLL) limited mobility.
That means when Reliance Infocom launches its much-hyped limited mobility service with the target of enlisting 6million subscribers, it will face a challenge trying to retain fickle subscribers when they start demanding SMS and MMS.
Its subscribers will be able to use their phone only for voice telephony. Reliance is expected to offer its limited mobility service for a one-time payment of Rs 14,400 (without handset) for a three-year unlimited usage on local calls (that would be only within a short distance charging area or SDCA, which is within a zone of 25-35 kms).
The big question: Will Reliance approach the government and the regulator on its own or wait for subscribers to file a public interest litigation to allow these services'
The three telecom operators in South Korea—South Korea Telecom (SKT), Korea Telecom (KTF) and LG Telecom which were the first to adopt this CDMA technology—are already offering these value-added services since they have now opted for the latest CDMA version—1xEV-DO—that enables them to offer streaming video. In fact, they are now adopting the latest version—Wide Band CDMA (WCDMA)—a 3G technology developed by GSM lobby that enhances the capability of value-added services.
“India is a big market for CDMA. It is also one of the two growth areas in the world for this technology. The big bang approach adopted by Reliance to roll out its network using CDMA has given us the faith that it will be a big success in India. A few other operators have also shown interest including Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd,” said Jim Doh, vice-president and general manager, Qualcomm CDMA Technologies, Korea and Taiwan.
“South Korea had decided to adopt this technology in 1993-94 even as the whole world was rushing for global system for mobile communications (GSM). It has paid rich dividends and we are the pioneers of CDMA and have successfully shown the advantages of this technology,” Doh added.
India too had decided to adopt the GSM and stipulated in its initial licence condition offered to private telecom operators that only GSM technology could be used to offer mobile telephony services. However, later under the National Telecom Policy 1999, the government allowed all the operators to use any technology to offer mobility.
The Supreme Court is also expected to give its verdict this month on limited mobility using the CDMA technology offered by basic service providers. Cellular service providers, who use GSM technology, have challenged Trai’s decision allowing basic telephony operators to offer a limited mobility service, claiming it would seriously undermine the viability of their operations.