No concept captivates managers like globalisation. The idea of a global consumer melting pot where tastes combine in a single soupy blend offers fantastic possibilities. Nowhere more so than in mobile telecommunications. Increased world travel means telephony consumers want roaming across international borders. For now, their ability is limited by incompatible systems in Europe, Japan and the United States. The next generation of phones should change all that. In the finest tradition of format wars a battle royal is shaping up between international phone companies to achieve the first truly global standard. The risks of failure are huge - victory offers global dominance. So called third-generation systems will be broadband, allowing moving pictures to be transmitted and a huge improvement in voice quality. Fear of failure is producing two unholy alliances of international companies. Last week's international telecommunications conference in Singapore was dominated by the issue. The question is whether international industry regulators should try to ensure a single standard. Would such a controlled approach benefit consumers? For now the battle lines look to be North America versus the rest of the world. Last week Japan's NTT joined with European operators to pursue a common digital system. A US-Canadian consortium will go it alone with a different form of the same Code Division Multiple Access technology (CDMA). Japan was the big loser with the last generation of phones, developing its own standard used nowhere else in the world. The inconvenience to globe-trotting Japanese businessmen was enormous. By contrast, European countries developed the Global System for Mobiles standard, now widely used in Southeast Asia. Faced with a repeat, NTT opted to join the European group despite spending 10 years developing its own version of CDMA. The idea being bandied around telecom circles is that the two sides should drop plans for competing systems, coming together under the stewardship of the International Telecommunications Union. A single mobile standard for the entire world is the promise with global roaming for all. The idea should chill consumers everywhere. If companies by dint of competition and good business sense come together that is fine. Doing so because governments, or anyone else, tell them to can only create an unwieldy monopoly. World tastes may be generic but globalisation has its darker side for consumers.