As most international telecommunications carriers switch to competing technologies, mobile network developer Qualcomm has launched a market-bridging strategy to draw more firms to its technology. Qualcomm, which owns key patents behind the code division multiple access (CDMA) standard, which dominates in the United States, wants more carriers to adopt its third-generation (3G) CDMA2000 standard. However, more companies are switching to the European wideband CDMA (WCDMA) standard, also known as UMTS (universal mobile telecommunications service). About 70 per cent of operators worldwide have reportedly chosen the European global system for mobile communications (GSM) standard and most have upgraded their networks' general packet radio services (GPRS) and enhanced data GSM environment (Edge) before moving to WCDMA. AT&T Wireless and Cingular, two of the leading mobile phone operators in the US, are also upgrading their networks on WCDMA technology. The price of upgrading mobile networks in several stages was expected to add to the high costs already incurred by 3G carriers in winning their licences. But Qualcomm senior vice-president of engineering Sanjay Jha said the total deployment cost could be cut by about 30 per cent. The company is promoting a new technology called GSM1x, which combines the core GSM/GPRS network and infrastructure with CDMA2000 radio access equipment. GSM1x would enable mobile network operators to continue using GSM networks and overlay CDMA2000, as an alternative to building a new network for 3G mobile technology. 'If it requires US$10 million for a WCDMA network, with GSM1x, you only need to pay US$7 million. Up to 30 per cent can be saved in handset costs, decreasing the number of base stations and the expenditure cost of networks,' Mr Jha said. GSM1x allows data speeds of 250 kilobits per second to 350 kbps per sector in a 1.25 to 1.5 megahertz channel, enhancing transmission speeds of up to 2.4 megabits per second. Mr Jha said GSM1x subscribers could continue using CDMA2000 handsets and they could be upgraded to accept GSM Sim cards, or buy a combined CDMA/GSM phone. This option would be necessary for users who travelled to countries not using GSM1x networks. 'We believe it is a very cost-effective solution in comparison to Edge or WCDMA. There are lots of [CDMA2000] models available and there is a lot of competition so the cost of handsets will come down faster and therefore we believe it is a better evolution for GSM operators.' With a GSM network and CDMA2000 interface, Mr Jha said it was possible to migrate GSM1x to WCDMA interface because the network was the same. 'We do not believe there is significant efficiency in UMTS beyond CDMA2000, but for some people who want to use UMTS for whatever reason, this allows that possibility to exist and it will be an option to operators to go to UMTS or not,' he said. Mr Jha said GSM1x would be available in the third quarter next year, with handsets on the market in the middle of next year. Qualcomm had been in discussions with network operators in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Australia, Malaysia, Indonesia and the US.