The US government has accused the European Union (EU) of restricting competition in third generation (3G) wireless communications.
It claims that the organisation has permitted some member states to start introducing spectrum licensing procedures before a global standard has been approved.
In a letter to Karel van Miert, European commissioner for telecoms, William Daley, US secretary of commerce, and Charlene Barshefsky, US trade representative, said the EU licensing process should mirror that of the US.
US wireless operators are free to upgrade their systems to any 3G technologies at any time based on their own commercial decisions rather than government regulatory restrictions, they claimed.
While 3G systems will enable users to send and receive multimedia applications from mobile phones and other handheld devices, technology suppliers across the world have been at loggerheads over which radio interface standards should be used.
In March, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) was offered three proposals for ratification as a standard - CDMA 2000, wideband CDMA, and wideband TDMA - also known as UWC-136 for its IMT-2000 3G framework. The organisation is expected to approve one of them during its next meeting in November.
But the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) has already approved wideband CDMA as its regional standard.
And to make matters worse, because the EC has allowed some of its member states to commence their licensing procedures before the ITU makes its final decision, the European market has been effectively closed to potential suppliers of other proposed standards, the US government alleges.
The UK's Department of Trade and Industry had planned to auction up to five 3G licenses this summer, but this has now been delayed until the autumn at the earliest.
Gregory Williams, chairman of the Universal Wireless Communication Consortium (UWCC), which represents US cellular technologists, said: "The UWCC has steadfastly maintained that the marketplace should be open to all 3G technologies that meet IMT-2000 requirements, and does not want governments or other standards bodies to, in effect, preempt the ITU process by advocating their own time schedules and restricting technology decisions."
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