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Europe way ahead in third generation mobile communications

The European Union is set to maintain its lead in telecommunications technology with the third generation mobile and wireless communications system UMTS, and companies are joining forces across Europe to ensure they take advantage of new developments.

A commercial UMTS networ...
The European Union is set to maintain its lead in telecommunications technology with the third generation mobile and wireless communications system UMTS, and companies are joining forces across Europe to ensure they take advantage of new developments.

A commercial UMTS network will be fully operational by the year 2002, said Joao Da Silva, Head of the Mobile and Personal Communications Unit in the European Commission's DG XIII, at a recent meeting of the UMTS Development Partnership (UDP) formed to take advantage of it. The event was the first public presentation of a consortium of leading European R&D institutes and telecommunications companies founded on 1 January 1999 to support companies in the transition to UMTS with advice on both technical issues and market strategy.

Europe has built on the competitive advantages gained during the development of the second generation digital mobile cellular GSM system, and in 1997 became the world's largest service provider, overtaking the US. 'With the development of GSM in 1992 we have moved from a system of multiple standards to one system, whereas the US has moved from one system to seven,' said Mr Da Silva. Having a harmonised system in Europe brings great advantages - whereas in the US you need a different system to move from New York to Seattle you can use the same cellular system in Helsinki as you would in London.

In 1998 the European Council and Parliament adopted a decision paving the way for the rapid and coordinated introduction of compatible UMTS networks and services in the EU by the year 2002.

While UMTS is only one of several third generation mobile communications systems, it looks set to become the industry standard. Mr Da Silva explained: 'We need to introduce the UMTS system in a harmonised system like GSM. They have to be interoperable to enable people to access the same system wherever they are in Europe.

'However the process should be an industry-led process. Where we help is promoting a harmonised system at Member State level. There will be room for many systems of which UMTS will be just one, but we expect the market process will be such that no-one will look at anything else.

'The main benefit of the UMTS system is mobility. One of the business needs of the consumer is to have access wherever he or she is.'

Will Hildering, Head of Department Systems IMST and a UDP partner said: 'UMTS will change our lives within the next ten years, I am sure about it. This is why we have set up the UMTS Development Partnership.'

'The objective of the UDP is to encourage the eventual take up of third generation mobile telecommunications, especially in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)', added Ulrich Kranz, President and CEO of Eutelis Consult, another UDP partnership.

'The companies are small, but together their resources are not small. The UMTS Development Partnership can advise on technical systems and provide market relevant advice. We are binding the competence areas of the partners involved, developing a complete portfolio of services for UMTS development.

'This allows SMEs to participate usefully in the growing telecommunications market place. Eventually we hope to create UMTS products up to the service product level with full market support and access to venture capital.'

Source: UMTS Development Partnership

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