Oki Telecom Inc. says it expects to be first to market with a tri-mode wireless phone based on Code Division Multiple Access technology, a move in line with the company’s selection of CDMA as its product niche for the U.S. market.

The year 1996 has seen numerous strategic changes by smaller handset manufacturers, which are positioning themselves to compete in what has become an intensely crowded and competitive market.

Fujitsu Network Transmission Systems Inc. decided to stop producing cellular phones to focus on digital ones. JRC International Inc. adopted a new strategy that included prepaid cellular phones. Philips Electronics NV of the Netherlands announced it was going to be a significant wireless handset provider. Germany-based Siemens AG created a U.S. manufacturing and sales force designed to penetrate the U.S. handset market. Korean manufacturers LG Information & Communications Ltd. and Samsung Electronics Co. announced intentions of being prominent CDMA handset providers. Lucent Technologies Inc. also intends to build handsets.

And in the middle of the fray stands Oki Telecom of Suwanee, Ga., Oki has been involved in cellular technology since 1973, when it worked with Bell Laboratories to design equipment for the nation’s first cellular system. Oki supplied some of the first cellular equipment used in the Chicago service trial in 1978. In 1982, Oki said it became the first manufacturer to receive federal type acceptance on a cellular mobile phone.

Oki decided this fall it would focus only on CDMA digital products for the U.S. market, and not build phones for the United States market based on other digital standards, such as Global System for Mobile communications or Time Division Multiple Access.

Oki’s tri-mode model, the CD 1900, will operate at 800 MHz analog, 800 MHz CDMA and 1900 MHz CDMA. Oki hopes to introduce it during the third quarter of 1997. The company continues to develop, manufacture and expand its analog cellular phone lines.

Oki also underwent a slight name change in September during a corporate restructure by the parent company Oki Electric Industry Co. Ltd. of Tokyo.

The U.S. group is no longer Oki telecom, a division of Oki America Inc.; it is its own corporation, Oki Telecom Inc., and a wholly owned subsidiary of Oki Electric in Japan.

Tokyo now works directly with the U.S. telecom group, particularly regarding products for the international market.

AirTouch Communications Inc. is using Oki’s single-mode CDMA phones in its Los Angeles CDMA market, which is up and running. Oki also has a contract to supply dual-mode, dual-band CDMA phones to Bell Mobility in Canada next year.


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