Qualcomm Inc. said it has clarified its stance with the European Telecommunications Standards Institute on intellectual property rights it claims to own for W-CDMA technology.
In January, ETSI chose W-CDMA technology, based on a Global System for Mobile communications platform, as a third-generation technology choice for mobile networks and submitted the standard in June to the International Telecommunication Union, the international body in charge of setting third-generation standards. ETSI since has been determining which companies own key IPRs to W-CDMA.
Qualcomm already indicated in April it would only grant IPRs if the ETSI proposal is converged with cdma2000, a wideband Code Division Multiple Access technology based on the Interim Standard 95 protocol.
But ETSI wanted a “yes” or “no” answer. The standards body gave Qualcomm 90 days to clarify whether it is prepared to grant irrevocable licenses to W-CDMA technology according to ETSI IPR policy, which simply requires manufacturers to grant unconditionally licenses on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms and conditions.
Qualcomm stated it will not grant licenses for the W-CDMA standard and outlined what it calls three fairness principles it believes must be met before it will grant licenses:
1. A single, converged worldwide CDMA standard should be selected for 3G;
2. The converged CDMA standard must accommodate equally the two dominate network standards used today, IS-41 and GSM-MAP; and
3. Disputes on specific technological points should be resolved by selecting the proposal that either is proven superior in terms of performance, features or cost, or, in the case of alternatives with no demonstrated material difference, the choice most compatible with existing technology.
ETSI had not received Qualcomm’s letter at RCR press time, but said it has a scheduled meeting with Qualcomm today. Qualcomm said it has kept a running dialogue with ETSI and established an office nearby in Sophia Antipolis, France. Adrian Scrase, secretary of the ETSI board, declined to comment on whether ETSI is open to converging the two CDMA standards. But ETSI’s UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications Standard) Globalization Group has organized a third-generation partnership project designed to promote W-CDMA technology around the world.
“It’s difficult,” Scrase said of ETSI’s predicament. “One thing is always clear: We have to follow the rules to the letter.”
ETSI’s rules are what some U.S. manufacturers and the CDMA Development Group have been criticizing, claiming their cdma2000 proposals have been shut out of the standards-setting process. The IS-95 protocol has yet to make an entrance into Europe, which years ago mandated one technology, GSM, to allow for pan-European roaming.
“To date, Qualcomm has actively participated in the ETSI process, and while ETSI has had every opportunity to evaluate cdma2000, they have shown little interest in anything that differs from the single W-CDMA proposal,” said William Bold, vice president of government affairs with Qualcomm.
Sweden-based L.M. Ericsson, which has been accused of strong-arming the ETSI process, has maintained all ETSI participants had an opportunity before January to submit other proposals.
“The proposals being put forward by certain vendors at this late stage is a surprise to us. Not only to us, but to everyone who has been involved in this process,” Ake Persson, vice president of marketing and sales with Ericsson Radio Systems in Sweden, told RCR last month. “There have been numerous occasions where other proposals could have been put forward. The time ran out. It’s a procedure issue … If you participate, you can submit proposals, and if they are supported by others, they become work items and the process is then drafted.”
The U.S. government has become increasingly interested in Europe’s standards-setting process. The Clinton administration is growing worried American mobile phone technology will be locked out of the 15-nation European Union in the next century.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman William Kennard, along with State Department international telecom head Vonya McCann and other U.S. officials, last month held high-level meetings with European officials in Brussels, Belgium, where the third-generation issue was raised. (See related story on Page 2.)
“I received some assurances there that the European Union would not discriminate against a provider that wanted to come into the European market with a different standard,” Kennard told RCR. “But that’s really not sufficient because basically what we need is for the standards-setting process, the ETSI process, to be open and democratic so that all companies can have a fair shot.”
Rep. Connie Morella (R-Md.), chairwoman of the House Science subcommittee on technology, has been pressing the Clinton administration for support to prevent U.S. companies from being muscled out of the international standards-setting process by European manufacturers.
In a colloquy on the floor of the House of Representatives last week, Morella told lawmakers she believes the FCC, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Department of State should work to ensure U.S. technologies are not stranded in the ITU process. The only way to do this, said Morella, is to require backwards compatibility.
“Since the FCC, NTIA and the Department of State all fall within the Commerce, Justice, State appropriations, I would ask the chairman to work with these agencies to ensure that no U.S. technologies are stranded as a result of the ITU standards-setting process,” said Morella.
Europe, Japan, the United States South Korea all submitted proposals that include W-CDMA technology. Only the United States and South Korea included proposals incorporating cdma2000 technology. The ITU has given itself until March to come up with a family of standards that incorporate the various proposals.