Martin Bangemann, European IT and telecomms commissioner, said in a letter to the US authorities that the he will not interfere in industry efforts to create standards for third generation mobile communications equipment.
He was replying to the letter on the issue from US secretary of state Madeleine Albright.
"The commission does not and will not interfere in this industry led standardisation process, which is conducted independently by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) and its members. I trust that you agree this is the correct approach," he wrote.
The EU's decision on Europe's third generation system, UMTS, was approved in December and is aimed at ensuring interoperability of systems for pan European roaming. It does not exclude services based on other standards, if there is sufficient radio spectrum, he said.
"It is left to the market, and in particular to the operators and to the suppliers to determine the characteristics of the service. I should point out that, at this stage, it is not as your letter seems to imply, the standards, but the basic concept for the UMTS radio interface that has been agreed within ETSI," he said.
US technology firm Qualcomm said it holds a series of patents on the CDMA radio technology that it claims would have to be incorporated in ETSI's UMTS. It will not license these patents unless the ETSI concept is changed to meet its aim of a worldwide norm, the company said.
Bangemann said ETSI's UMTS system has been proposed to the International Telecommunication Union for the family of third generation mobile norms, which he expects to be supported for global use by the ITU when it meets in March.
He said different solutions could be appropriate for different operational conditions but warned there was already a possibility of compatibility problems between second and third generation systems in the US.
Having allocated for second generation services the frequency bands identified by the ITU for third generation mobile services, the US was forced to promote backward compatibility between second and third generation standards and the re-use of network hardware, he explained.
This created potential problems for the progression to third generation standards, he warned: "I would submit that the US domestic frequency decisions mean that non US suppliers are severely constrained in their proposals for the choice of technology for, and entry into, the US market."
Bangemann said the commission, "would not deem it appropriate to impose backward compatability between second and third generation systems, like the US seems to want, nor to impose convergence of third generation standards towards a single standard, let alone towards a particular third generation standard, be it at EU or global level."
A commission official said they were prepared to hold further discussions with the U.S. on this issue and said if there is no agreement between ETSI and Qualcomm on patents then European firms will be able to 'steer around' this problem.
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