The head of the International Telecommunication Union said today that he is optimistic that consensus will be reached soon over plans for a new global mobile phone standard.
At present there are many different mobile standards in use across the world, and finding consensus on a new global third generation standard has proved difficult since work started in 1996.
But with the comment period ending later this month, and the consultation process beginning in the new year, the ITU's secretary general Pekka Tarjanne said at the FT World Telecommunications conference in London that he is optimistic about worldwide cooperation.
"I'm optimistic. I believe I can see a convergence towards one global standard after the consensus building period - by 1 April," said Tarjanne. "Let's hope that my optimism bears true."
Under the ITU's International Mobile Telecommunications 2000 programme, representatives of 188 states and 500 public and private organisations are creating standards for a third generation mobile phone system, called the Universal Mobile Telephony System (UMTS).
The system will extend the interoperability of mobile phones and enable transmission of Internet and other advanced data services to mobile handsets. But opinion has been divided between developers of different mobile standards in Europe, the US and Japan.
Operators are keen to protect their investments in existing mobile standards like GSM and CDMA, and fear radical reform. But the ITU is not talking about a situation where every company has to come up with exactly the same technology, said Tarjanne. "That would be nonsense."
"When I talk about creating one standard, I mean a framework where companies can compete with technology as they should," he said. "One standard means that they interoperate."
Equipment vendor Nokia said operators can build third generation mobile communications on top of much of their existing infrastructure. They would "only really be adding major investment in their air interface," said Jorma Ollila, chief executive of Nokia.
"This means you can use much of the investment that has already been done. There won't be a quick replacement of GSM," said Ollila.
In the UK, third generation mobile will provide more than just a better version of today's mobile services, according to the DTI. "It really will be a new concept, offering new and significant opportunities, driven by radio applications, not just conventional voice," said David Hendon, head of the radiocommunications agency of the DTI following the last IMT-2000 meeting last month.
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